Surekha Katiyar-Agarwal


Education and Research Experience

B.Sc. (Botany) & M.Sc. (Plant Molecular Biology) at University of Delhi; Ph.D.  (Plant Molecular Biology) at University of Delhi; Post-doctoral fellow at University of Arizona, Arizona, USA and University of California Riverside, California, USA; Assistant Professor at Department of Plant Molecular Biology, University of Delhi South Campus 2007-2015; Associate Professor 2015-2018; Professor since 2018.

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Research focus areas:
  • Understanding the Molecular Basis of Stress Tolerance in Plants, with Emphasis on Membrane Proteins and Transcription Factors.
  • Exploring the Role of Epitranscriptome Changes in Defining Stress Response in Plants, with Emphasis on Pseudouridylation.
  • Investigating the Regulation of Senescence in Plants, with Emphasis on Heat Shock Factors and Small RNAs.
Research Interests: 

Understanding the Molecular Basis of Stress Responses in Plants: Plants respond to harsh environmental conditions by undergoing changes at molecular, biochemical and physiological level. Small RNAs have emerged as crucial regulators of development and stress responses in plants. Genome-wide discovery of small RNAs in economically important crops such as wheat, mustard, potato, chickpea and rice has been carried out by our research group. We also work on elucidating the molecular and physiological function of stress-associated gene families such as 1) tetraspanins (TETs) which are transmembrane proteins that act as dynamic ‘facilitators’ in organizing ‘microdomain web’ at cell surface, thereby modulating signalling cascades. HSFs are regulators of several stress-responsive genes; 2) HSFs  (heat shock transcription factors) which play crucial roles in various stress responses in plants. Using transgenic and different omics approaches we perform functional characterization of members of these gene families. Efforts are being made to identify the interacting partners and probable targets of these proteins, which would provide insights into their biological function in stress response pathway.

Exploring the Role of Epitranscriptome in Defining Stress Responses in Plants: RNA editing and modifications decorate almost all classes of cellular RNAs (tRNAs, rRNAs, snRNAs, lncRNAs and mRNAs) at post-transcriptional level. More than 170 modifications are known, among which m6A, Ψ, m5C, 8-OHG and C to U editing are the most abundant. Together, these modifications constitute the “epitranscriptome”, and influence  several RNA attributes, thereby providing an additional structural and functional diversification to the “cellular messages” and adding another layer of gene regulation in organisms, including plants. Our group works on elucidating the role of pseudouridylation, functional characterization of enzymes that catalyze this modification and how these changes shape stress responses in plants. Unravelling of the epitranscriptome has opened new avenues for tailoring crops with improved productivity and stress resilience in view of global climate change.

Investigating the Regulation of Leaf Senescence in Plants: Leaf senescence is a complex, yet highly orchestrated, stage of plant development, involving age-dependent degeneration ultimately leading to death. In agricultural aspects, leaf senescence is thought to limit the yield in crops and it is a major cause of post-harvest spoilage of vegetable crops. Moreover, abiotic stresses accelerate senescence in plants leading to enormous negative agro-economic impact. Our group is involved in unravelling the gene reprogramming changes that occur in flag leaf senescence and coleoptile senescence in rice. We have performed transcriptome analyses (both RNA-seq and small RNA-seq) of flag leaf and coleoptile senescence in rice. Efforts are being made to elucidate the components and pathways regulating rice leaf senescence. Interestingly, several members of HSF family in rice are differentially expressed at different stages of flag leaf, coleoptile and dark-induced senescence. Functional characterization of members of HSF family in rice and Arabidopsis is being carried out with respect to their role in regulating leaf senescence.

Our research work would provide an insight into the mechanism of stress tolerance and senescence in plants. It would be worthwhile to explore the overlap in the two pathways and the components associated with them. The information generated would be useful in engineering ‘designer plants’ by transgenic technology with enhanced tolerance to different abiotic stresses and altered senescence.

Select Publications:
  1. Dhingra, Y., Gupta, S., Gupta, V., Agarwal, M., Katiyar-Agarwal, S. (2023). The emerging role of epitranscriptome in shaping stress responses in plants. Plant Cell Reports, DOI: 10.1007/s00299-023-03046-1.
  2. Sasi, J. M., VijayaKumar, C., Kukreja, B., Budhwar, R., Shukla, R. N., Agarwal, M., Katiyar-Agarwal, S. (2022). Integrated transcriptomics and miRNAomics provide insights into the complex multi-tiered regulatory networks associated with coleoptile senescence in rice. Frontiers in Plant Science, 13, 985402.
  3. Sasi, J. M., Gupta, S., Singh, A., Kujur, A., Agarwal, M., Katiyar-Agarwal, S. (2022). Know when and how to die: gaining insights into the molecular regulation of leaf senescence. Physiology and Molecular Biology of Plants, 28(8), 1515–1534.
  4. Raxwal, V. K., Ghosh, S., Singh, S., Katiyar-Agarwal, S., Goel, S., Jagannath, A., Kumar, A., Scaria, V., Agarwal, M. (2020). Abiotic stress-mediated modulation of the chromatin landscape in Arabidopsis thaliana. Journal of Experimental Botany, 71(17), 5280–5293.
  5. Sasi, J.M., Kumar, C.V., Mani, M., Bhardwaj, A.R., Agarwal, M., Katiyar-Agarwal, S. (2019). Identification and characterization of miRNAs during flag leaf senescence in rice by high-throughput sequencing. Plant Physiology Reports, 24. DOI: 10.1007/s40502-019-0436-6
  6. Pandey, R., Bhardwaj, A.R., Agarwal, M., Katiyar-Agarwal, S. (2017). Discovery of small RNAs in wheat: a survey.  Indian Journal of Plant Physiology, 22, 411-421.
  7. McLoughlin, F., Basha, E., Fowler, M.E., Kim, M., Bordowitz J., Katiyar-Agarwal, S., Vierling, E. (2016). Class I and II small heat-shock proteins protect protein translation factors during heat stress. Plant Physiology 172:1221-1236.
  8. Mani, B., Agarwal, M., Katiyar-Agarwal, S. (2015). Comprehensive expression profiling of rice tetraspanin genes reveals diverse roles during development and abiotic stress. Front. Plant Sci. 6:1088.
  9. Bhardwaj, A.R., Joshi, G., Pandey, R., Goel, S., Jagannath, A., Kumar, A., Katiyar-Agarwal, S., Agarwal, M. (2014). A genome-wide perspective of miRNAome in response to high temperature, salinity and drought stresses in Brassica juncea (Czern) L. PLoS ONE 9:e92456.
  10. Pandey, R., Joshi, G., Bhardwaj, A.R., Agarwal, M., Katiyar-Agarwal, S. (2014). A comprehensive genome-wide study on tissue-specific and abiotic stress-specific miRNAs in Triticum aestivumPLoS ONE 9:e95800. 
  11. Zhang, X., Zhao, H., Gao, S., Wang, W.C., Katiyar-Agarwal, S., Huang, H.D., Raikhel, N., Jin, H. (2011). Arabidopsis Argonaute 2 regulates innate immunity via miRNA393(∗)-mediated silencing of a golgi-Localized SNARE gene, MEMB12. Molecular Cell 42:356-66.  
  12. Katiyar-Agarwal, S., Jin, H. (2010). Role of small RNAs in host-microbe interactions. Annu. Rev. Phytopathol. 48:225-246. 
  13. Katiyar-Agarwal, S., Gao, S., Vivian-Smith, A., Jin, H. (2007). A novel class of bacteria-induced small RNAs in Arabidopsis. Genes and Dev. 21:3123-3134. 
  14. Katiyar-Agarwal, S., Morgan, R., Dahlbeck, D., Borsani, O., Villegas, A., Zhu, J-K., Staskawicz, B., Jin, H. (2006). A pathogen-inducible endogenous siRNA In plant immunity. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 103:1802-18007.
  15. Katiyar-Agarwal,S., Zhu, J., Kim, K., Agarwal, M., Fu, X., Huang, A., Zhu, J-K. (2006). The plasma membrane Na+/H+ antiporter SOS1 interacts with RCD1 and functions in oxidative stress tolerance in Arabidopsis. Proc.  Natl. Acad.  Sci. USA 103:18816-21.
  16. Verslues, P.E., Agarwal, M., Katiyar-Agarwal, S., Zhu, J., Zhu, J-K. (2006). Methods and concepts in quantifying resistance to drought, salt and freezing, abiotic stresses that affect plant water status. Plant J.  45: 523-539.

Complete Publication List available at SCOPUS  Samarth eGov  ResearchGate