CSIR succeeds in Genome sequencing of Tulsi to unravel its therapeutic secrets soon

  • Posted on: 9 June 2015
  • By: Shalini.Sharma

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A team of researchers from CSIR-CIMAP (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Central Institute of Medical & Aromatic Plants) in Lucknow have successfully completed the genome sequencing of Tulsi (Basil) plant and very soon are expected to unravel the therapeutic secrets of its medical properties. This is the first report of complete genome sequence of a traditional and most respected medicinal plant of India, using a composite next generation sequencing technologies.

The scientific name of Tulsi is Ocimum sanctum, since ages, all parts of this plant such as dried leaf, dried seed, and dried whole plant are used in several systems of traditional medicine, including Ayurveda, Greek, Roman, Siddha, and Unani. Ocimum sanctum, the wonder plant ‘Holy basil’ or ‘Tulsi’, which is revered as ‘Vishnupriya’ and worshipped for over more than 3000 years through the sacred traditions of Hindu culture. ‘Tulsi’ is rich in phenylpropanoids, terpenoids and their derivatives, and many of these are implicated for different therapeutic activities. It is used in the preparations to cure various diseases like bronchitis, bronchial asthma, malaria, diarrhea, dysentery, skin diseases, arthritis, painful eye diseases, chronic fever, insect bite etc. It has also been described to possess anti-fertility, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, anti-fungal, anti-microbial, hepatoprotective, cardioprotective, anti-emetic, anti-spasmodic, analgesic, adaptogenic and diaphoretic actions. Many of the basil oil constituents have found applications as medicinal ingredients, flavors, fragrance, etc.

According to scientists at CSIR-CIMAP, this is the first report of complete genome sequence of a traditional medicinal plant in India. “We have adopted most advanced techniques and used composite next generation sequencing technologies to unravel the genomic sequence of Tulsi plant. With this success we can say we have achieved the first step to reveal the therapeutic secrets of this medicinal herb,” informed a senior scientist related to this work.

Considering the metabolic and therapeutic potential of this revered plant, the availability of whole genome sequence is the first step to understand and unravel the secrets of this ‘mother of all herbs’ and to provide scientific validity to the traditional claims of its utility in diverse medicinal usage.

The availability of the genome sequence now opens the possibility to identify genes involved in producing therapeutic molecules and to produce them in vitro.  This will also facilitate identification of not yet identified genes involved in the synthesis of important secondary metabolites in this plant. Specific pathway related genes identified or mined in this genome could be used for the production of secondary metabolites following synthetic biology approaches. The development of molecular tools and genomic resources will accelerate molecular breeding and ultimately the utility of Holy basil in medical community.

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