Tag Archives: DBT

Soil bacteria, Bt, has a life beyond GM crops

Sarah Iqbal

Aligarh: Soil bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt, became famous for its connection with genetically modified crops like Bt cotton and Bt brinjal. But it has its use in agriculture beyond GM crops. A group of Indian scientists have found new strains of Bt which they say can be used to develop biopesticides in future.

Researchers from Aligarh Muslim University and New Delhi-based National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology have identified new strains of Bt from soil samples collected in Northwestern Himalayas.

Bt is an important soil organism which produces protein crystals toxic to many insects.These proteins become active in the gut of pests under alkaline conditions and form pores in their cell lining. Subsequently, insects lose their cellular constituents, stop feeding and ultimately die. GM crops exploit these traits by incorporating such bacterial genes. However, over a period of time pests become resistant to toxic genes. Crystal proteins of Bt can be added directly to soil instead of chemical pesticides, but in this case too their prolonged use may allow pest to develop resistance.

Therefore, scientists are on a lookout for different strains of bacteria that contain unique insecticidal genes. In their search for a novel strain of Bt, researchers focused on Northwestern Himalayas. They gathered 207 soil samples from ten different locations and cultured the bacteria in lab. The crystal proteins produced were then tested for toxicity against cotton bollworm.

Two proteins – Cry and Cyt- have the strongest insecticidal action against this moth. So, scientists checked bacterial DNA for the presence of seven different classes of Cry genes and two classes of Cyt genes. Almost two-thirds of the Bt strains tested positive for either gene.

Researchers then isolated bacterial proteins and fed them to the cotton bollworm larva. Eating leaves coated with these proteins stopped larval feeding in 30% of cases. Scientists noticed that strains most successful in this endeavour expressed both Cry and Cyt genes.

Based on these results, four potential strains that can be used to develop broad range biopesticides have been identified. One that particularly stands out is Bacillus thuringiensis JK 12 which is required in the least quantity to stop larval feeding.“In future, all these four potentially toxic strains shall be tested against other lepidopteran pests and we will determine their applicability as broad-host- range biopesticides”, Showkat Ahmad Lone, the lead author of the study, told India Science Wire.

However, Dr. Raj K Bhatnagar, Professor Emeritus at International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, who is not connected with the study, pointed out that such studies fall short on characterising the gene or the protein. “In the present study, there is no comparison of toxicity with known strains,” he added.

Because these proteins are non-toxic to humans and do not affect soil productivity they offer several advantages over conventional pesticides, Dr Bhatnaghar felt. The research team included Showkat Ahmad Lone (Aligarh Muslim University), Abdul Malik
(Aligarh Muslim University) and Jasdeep Chatrath Padaria (National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology). The study has been published recently in journal Biotechnology Reports. (India Science Wire)


Indian scientists resurrect World War era drug to fight malaria

Jyoti Singh

Prof. Suman Dhar (extreme right) with research team

New Delhi: A neglected and old anti-parasitic drug used during the World War II is emerging as a new weapon in the fight against malaria as malaria parasite becomes resistant to currently available drugs.

A group of Indian researchers have resurrected acriflavine or ACF which was used as an anti-parasite drug in the last century, and have found it to be effective against malaria parasite. Now they are working to make this molecule more effective using nanotechnology.

Researchers at the Special Centre for Molecular Medicine at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have got a patent for antimalarial properties of ACF. They have now joined hands with scientists at the National Institute of Immunology (NII) to develop a nano-formulation of the dug and to study its potential in animal models. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) is funding this joint effort.

ACF was previously used as a trypanocidal agent against a range of infections during World War II. But due to preferential use of chloroquine for treatment of malaria, its antimalarial activity was never investigated. “It was used as an antibacterial and anti-parasitical agent but it was not known as antimalarial agent. We have found that it is effective as an antimalarial molecule also,” said Prof Suman Dhar of JNU. “We believe nanoformulation of ACF will help release the molecule slowly into the host. This will increase its stability, and it will be then conjugated with specific antibodies to make it more specific.”

The researchers have already shown that ACF inhibits the growth of both chloroquine-sensitive and chloroquine-resistant strains of human malarial parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. It was also found to clear malarial infection from bloodstreams of mice infected with Plasmodium berghei. In addition, they have found that ACF is preferentially accumulated in the parasitized red blood cells.

Chloroquine and pyrimethamine, which were used as primary chemotherapeutic drugs, are of little use now since the parasite has developed resistance to them. Though there is a decline in global burden of malariacontinues to be a major health problem in many countries.Recent reports of resistance to artemisinin, the only effective antimalarial drug at present, are causing concern among health agencies globally.

The team of researchers includes Prof Suman Dhar from Special Center for Molecular Medicine at JNU; DrJaydeep Bhattacharya and Dr Deepak Gaur from School of Biotechnology at JNU; and DrAgam P. Singh from NII, New Delhi. (Indian Science Wire)



Indian scientists develop new approach to combat TB

Dr Swati Subodh

Prof. Anil K. Tyagi (right) with fellow researchers

New Delhi: A group of Indian scientists have identified molecules which are effective in inhibiting the growth of tuberculosis-causing bacteria – Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

The molecules target an important gene, IdeR, which is essential for the survival of the bacteria. This development could lead to new drugs against TB in future. “We have identified inhibitory molecules against IdeR, a key iron regulator that is crucial for survival of the TB pathogen,” said Prof. Anil K. Tyagi, a senior scientist at the University of Delhi and lead researcher of the study. The findings have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.


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In laboratory studies, the new molecules were not toxic in human liver cells and kidney cells and could efficiently reach the bacteria present within the cell, researchers said.
For decades treatment of TB has remained unchanged. Patients have to take multiple drugs over 6 to 9 months, which makes the treatment effective but largely inefficient due to associated side effects and high rate of patient non-compliance. This, in turn, increases the risk of developing drug resistant form of TB which is difficult to treat. Therefore, scientists are searching for better treatment which is shorter in duration and requires fewer drugs.

“We employed computer aided drug discovery and experimental approaches to identify inhibitors against an essential protein of TB bacteria,” explained Dr Garima Khare, one of the lead researchers. In doing so, researchers were able to identify additional features that contribute to better inhibition of this protein’s activity.

The study holds promise as it reports the structure and properties of likely drug molecules which are effective in inhibiting the bacteria by targeting a single essential bacterial gene vis-a-vis the multi-gene approach of the present treatment regimen.


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“These inhibitors will open new avenues for rational modifications for developing more potent molecules against IdeR for the development of new TB drugs” hopes Prof Tyagi.

The study was conducted at Department of Biochemistry, University of Delhi South campus by Akshay Rohilla, Dr Garima Khare and Dr Anil.K Tyagi. The research was funded by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT). (India Science Wire)

Twitter handle: @swatisubodh


Research and development in health and environment all set to get a new boost

Sunderarajan Padmanabhan

New Delhi: Research and development efforts in the areas of health and environment are set to get a major boost with the Government of India becoming an Associate Member of European Union’s cutting edge Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) at Grenoble in France.

The agreement will be for a period of three years at a cost of Rs. 17.5 crore. It will provide Indian scientific community access to multiple beam lines and other cutting edge facilities. India is the 22nd country to join the Facility.

The agreement builds up on the success of a previous ad-hoc arrangement signed by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) with European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in 2008 to access a beam line called BM14 at the Facility. The project was implemented by the New Delhi based National Institute of Immunology (NII) in partnership with EMBL.

A spokesperson of the Ministry of Science and Technology noted that it was of immense use to the macromolecular crystallography community in the country and had a profound impact on research and development in the areas of biotechnology and life sciences especially in understanding the biological mechanisms and development of effective therapeutics and prophylactics to combat human, veterinary and plant diseases.

“The access to the BM14 beamline has resulted in over 200 research publications, deposition of over 600 structures in the Protein Data Bank, training of more than 150 research personnel and over 100 PhD these were based on data collected under this programme’’.

Under the new arrangement, which will be formally launched in the presence of the Minister for Science and Technology, Harsh Vardhan on June 19, India would become a scientific partner of ESRF through the Regional Centre for Biotechnology (RCB), Faridabad. It provides access to multiple and more intense beam lines for Small Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS) along with macromolecular crystallography. In addition, access to the Cyro-Electron Microscopy Facility will be available in the near future.

India joins the ESRF at an opportune moment, as a new and revolutionary Extremely Brilliant Source (EBS)of synchrotron will become operational in 2020. The EBS, with its unprecedented performance, is expected to enable path breaking discoveries in living matter and material research. (India Science Wire)