Surekha Katiyar-Agarwal


Education and Research Experience

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 since 2007.

E. mail:
SpecializationUnderstanding Molecular Basis of Stress Responses and Senescence in Plants
Research Interests

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 tetraspanins (TETs) and HSFs(heat shock transcription factors). Tetraspanins 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. We found that the tetraspanin genes are differentially expressed in different tissues and diverse abiotic stresses in rice. Modulation of expression of TET5 and HSFC1 in rice results in altered response to salinity/drought stress. 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.

Molecular Basis 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 results 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.

Awards and distinctions: 

Innovative Young Biotechnologist Award (IYBA)-2012 by Department of Biotechnology, India

Select Publications:
  1. Jyothish, M.S., Kumar, C.V., Balaji, M., Bhardwaj, A.R., Agarwal, M., Katiyar-Agarwal, S. (2018). Identification and characterization of miRNAs during flag leaf senescence in rice by high-throughput sequencing. Indian J Plant Physiol. Doi:10.1007/s40502-019-0436-6.
  2. 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 Physiol. 172:1221-1236.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 ONE9:e92456.  
  5. 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 ONE9:e95800. 
  6. 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 Cell42:356-66.  
  7. Katiyar-Agarwal, S., Jin, H. (2010). Role of small RNAs in host-microbe interactions. Annu. Rev. Phytopathol.48:225-246. 
  8. 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. 
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.