Metabolic Research

Our group studies how microbial communities or "microbiomes" and their life on interfaces of solid, liquid or air as "biofilms" drive the processes occurring in natural environments such as surface freshwater or plant surfaces. Members of these species share resources such as metabolites or metabolic signals and they have diverse interactions with their hosts and immediate environments, all based on ecological principles. Due to mainstreaming of next generation DNA and RNA sequencing technologies, microbial ecologists can now directly sequence DNA/RNA of these community members thus bypassing laboratory-based culturing, which can only lead to recovery of <5% of microbes in most environmental niches sampled routinely. Hence, most of our classical understanding of microbes that was based on cultured single species in free living forms, is going through a paradigm shift.
"Metabolomics" is one of the latest frontiers in the functional genomics field that helps relate gene expression to phenotype, especially for metabolic pathways. Metabolomics refers to the field in which small molecules in cells or tissues can be studied in a non-biased manner at a given time. Metabolic pathways is central for studying cellular function. Its use in biomedical fields is also termed as “metabolomics”. Hence, these fields help in understanding many important aspects of cellular biochemistry using a systems approach.
Our laboratory is interested in employing metabolomics in combination with expression profiling strategies to understand biochemical changes in a variety of systems. We have used comparative metabolomics to decipher a novel flavonoid degradative pathway in a microbe and used metabolomics studies to devise a strategy for improving microbial performance in association with plants.
Some of our ongoing projects employing metabolomics include:

Bacteria:
  • Identification of a signaling molecule catalyzed by MorA, a Pseudomonas regulator that contains GGDEF/EAL domains
Plants:
  • Metabolic networks studies in plant secondary metabolism
  • Effects of expression of a bacterial phenylpropanoid oxidoreductase in Arabidopsis
Animals and Human:
  • Effects of heat stress in rat models.
  • Effects of psoralen-based bioactive compounds on human skin cells and
  • Two projects on cancer metabolomics and one on Alzheimer's disease are in early stages of development.