OSU Biochemistry and Molecular Biology



    Welcome        Research       Lab Members           CV          Dr. Ramanjulu Sunkar  

Born and grew up in a small village that is practicing rain-fed agriculture in Andhra Pradesh, India. Because rainfall is erratic in this region, I have seen many years of the drought than the years with good harvest. This was the most important motivation for me to study plant biology. My Ph.D studies focused on physiological and biochemical characterization of stress tolerance in mulberry, a local plant species of agricultural importance. To gain molecular insights into plant stress tolerance, I pursued postdoctoral research in most renowned laboratories in the world in this scientific discipline. My first postdoc with Dr. Hillel Fromm at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, focused on characterizing CNGC (cyclic nucleotide gated channel-like) proteins in Arabidopsis and tobacco. For my second post doc I chose to work with Dr. Dorothea Bartels, who pioneered the use of Craterostigma plantagineum, a resurrection model plant for studying desiccation tolerance in plants at the University of Bonn, Germany, and here I studied the function of a dehydration-inducible gene, ALDH (aldehyde dehydrogenase) in plant stress responses. By screening genomic libraries of C. plantagineum, I also isolated ALDH promoter that in turn led to the characterization of cis-elements required for the induction of ALDH in response to stress. My third postdoc was at the University of California, Riverside with Dr. Jian-Kang Zhu, a Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, who made seminal contributions to the discipline of plant stress tolerance. When I joined Zhu lab, the exciting field in biology was the discovery of small regulatory RNAs called ‘MicroRNAs”. Because of my deep interest in plant stress responses, I was curious to see if stress also regulates the expression of microRNAs. Indeed, I was the first to characterize stress-regulated microRNAs in higher eukaryotes.

I joined the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Oklahoma State University as an Assistant Professor in 2006, and I was promoted to Associate Professor in 2011. In my current position at Oklahoma State University, my laboratory works on understanding the molecular basis of stress tolerance in plants with a focus on microRNA- and epigenetic-mediated regulation of gene expression. This plant molecular biology research can help unravel complex plant regulatory networks that control stress tolerance.

I have edited two books; (1)“Plant Stress Tolerance: Methods and Protocols” under the successful series of Methods in Molecular Biology, and (2) “MicroRNAs in plant Development and Stress Responses”. I am an associate editor of BMC Plant Biology, BMC Genomics, Plant Signaling and Behavior and serving on the editorial board of several International peer-reviewed Journals including Molecular Biotechnology, Frontiers in Plant Genetics and Genomics, ISRN Botany, World Journal of Biological Chemistry.  I served as an ad-hoc reviewer for the International, National and state-level funding agencies and frequently reviewed research articles for several leading journals including PNAS USA, Plant Cell, Plant Journal and Plant Physiology, Genome Biology and others.


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