Research Highlights

Battling cancer

A team led by Prof. Tapas Kundu and Prof. Ravi Manjithaya (from MBGU) have been working together to understand regulation of autophagic processes through which human cells can become resistant to radiation, such as that used in cancer therapy. Recently, they found a key protein, called positive co-activator 4 (PC4), whose absence can lead to increased autophagy, allowing cells to withstand high radiation. These novel findings can be valuable in developing future autophagy inhibitor-based cancer therapeutics. This news was reported in the Hindu newspaper based on original study published in the FEBS journal. Sikder, S. , et al. (2019), Nonhistone human chromatin protein PC4 is critical for genomic integrity and negatively regulates autophagy. FEBS J.

Monitoring foraging in the wild: Are we doing it right?

Prof. TNC Vidya and her research team from EIBU found that remotely sensed indices, which are increasingly used in wildlife studies, are unreliable in informing elephant forage, particularly in case of Asian elephants in a southern Indian tropical forest. These results that confirm the inutility of NDVI in mapping foraging behaviour of elephants may also have implications for studies on other herbivores. This research was published in the journal Biotropica (Gautam H, Arulmalar E, Kulkarni MR, Vidya TNC. NDVI is not reliable as a surrogate of forage abundance for a large herbivore in tropical forest habitat. Biotropica. 2019; 51: 443– 456, and was covered by The Hindu newspaper.

Photocatalytic hydrogen evolution

Photocatalytic hydrogen evolution is a promising and sustainable alternative to generating hydrogen for solar energy conversion. Prof. Tapas K. Maji and his research group at CPMU described the regulation of charge transfer in conjugated microporous polymers for the photocatalytic production of hydrogen. This work was recently published: Mothika VS, Sutar P, Verma P, Das S, Pati SK, Maji TK. Regulating charge-transfer in conjugated microporous polymers for photocatalytic hydrogen evolution. Chem. Eur. J. 2019; 25: 3867–3874.

Keeping track of biological rhythms

An open-source App “RhythmicAlly” was developed by Mr. Abhilash Lakshman and Prof. Sheeba Vasu of the Neuroscience Unit, JNCASR for the analysis of biological rhythms. Among its several features, the app allows subjective marking of phases on actograms, provides high interactivity with graphs, and facilitates visualisation and storing of data for a batch of individuals simultaneously. The details regarding this tool was published in the Journal of Biological Rhythms (Lakshman, Abhilash & Vasu, Sheeba. RhythmicAlly: Your R and Shiny–Based Open-Source Ally for the Analysis of Biological Rhythms. J. Biol. Rhythms 2019; 34(5): 551–561.

A new tool to understand autophagy

Somya Vats, along with her supervisor Prof. Ravi Manjithaya, from MBGU characterised EACC, a novel small molecule that was found to inhibit late autophagy, without perturbing the general endolysosomal traffic. This reversible tool could prove to be useful for studying autophagy-specific SNAREs, which has been difficult to do, so far, due to a lack of autophagy-specific inhibitors. This exciting work was recently published: Somya V, Manjithaya R. A reversible autophagy inhibitor blocks autophagosome–lysosome fusion by preventing Stx17 loading onto autophagosomes. Mol. Biol. Cell 2019; 30(17): 2097–2347.

Understanding genetic risk factors of bipolar disorder

Although not fully understood, bipolar disorder (BPD) is thought to have a genetic component. A study by researchers from the laboratory of Prof. Anuranjan Anand from JNCASR in collaboration with researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru, carried out a decade-long study on four generations of a family with several members in each generation affected by the condition. Their excellent work identified variations in two specific genes (KANK4 and  CAP2) that could be related to BPD, thereby providing new and beneficial insights into this poorly understood condition. This discovery was also reported in the Hindu newspaper. DOI: 10.1111/bdi.12815