Scientist Profile

Dr. Rupam Kumar Bhunia

Dr. Rupam Kumar Bhunia

DST-Inspire Faculty

Date of Joining: 01 Jan 2018

+91 172 522 1140

Plant lipid Biochemistry

2008 Guest Lecturer. Biotechnology Department, Panskura Banamali College, Panskura, India.

2009-2015 Ph.D. Advanced Technology Development Centre, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India.

2014 Research Associate (after thesis submission). Synthetic Biology and Biofuel Lab, ICGEB, New Delhi, India

2015- 2017 Postdoctoral Fellow. Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, USA

1. Increasing the Shelf life of rice bran oil:

Rice bran oil (RBO) is extracted from rice bran as a by-product of milling (separation of husk) and is available as a food grade vegetable oil. RBO is emerging as a popular oil as it is typically high in oleic and linoleic fatty acids and contains naturally occurring antioxidants with health beneficial effects. However, during the normal practice of RBO extraction, the physical barriers that sequester the endogenous lipases away from the oil are disrupted, and these enzymes become activated by the moisture introduced in the milling process. Hence, RBO preparations have high free fatty acid (FFA) content, and this continues to increase during storage reaching 40-60% by 30 days after milling, which spoils the oil via oxidative rancidity.

Several efforts were made to reduce the rancidity and increase the shelf life some extent by adapting post-harvesting and/or pre-milling techniques. However, these pre-milling techniques have a negative impact on the quality of the micronutrients. Unfortunately, very little attention was given to bran oil rancidity in understanding the causative factors and biochemical and molecular mechanism. Thus, it is necessary to adopt genetic solutions in the grain itself to enhance its inherent capacity to produce low rancid bran oil without altering other nutritional benefits. Therefore, we aim to reduce rancidity for rice bran oil, using metabolic engineering and CRISPR/Cas9 approach by targeting oleosin protein, triacylglycerol lipases (TGL), lipoxygenase (LOX) and phospholipases in rice bran.


2. Enhancement of energy content in forage crops:

Lipids are frequently used in ruminant meals to increase their energy supply. Seed-grains like barley, wheat, oat, rye, and sorghum are excellent source of energy. However, they are used for human consumption and their use as animal feed is limited here in India. Poor energy containing green forage are still the major source of food for livestock animals, leaving the animals undernourished and lowering the milk and meat production efficieny for human consumption. Development of stratigies to enhance the energy content in forage by means of neutral lipid (triacylglycerol) for improved livestock production will be a welcome approch.

Lipids present in forages are an essential component of dairy cattle meal. However, the lipid present in forage undergoes microbial attack by rumen microbes (particularly by Anaerovibrio lipolytica) which hydrolyze the lipids and converts to free fatty acids, which further converted to saturated fatty acids, known as bio-hydrogenation. Moreover, the majority of the dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are converted into saturated fatty acids, leading to the loss of their healthy features, before absorption in the small intestine. This is one of the reasons for the milk and body fat of the ruminant being of equal composition, largely independent of the type of feed given. Hence, ruminant products (milk and meat) with increased healthy PUFA content is much more challenging to get. In our lab, we are working towards a novel direction to enhance the energy density in forage crops and aiming to generate “protected lipid” from ruminal lipolysis. In addition, this strategy differs fundamentally from previous studies which have prominently emphasized on protecting lipid products from rumen lipolysis by in vitro chemical treatments. This work is going to provide a very promising platform for stabilizing lipid products in leaves and rumen by emulate stabilizing molecular interactions found in nature. 

  1. Verma L, Bhadouria J, Bhunia RK, Singh S, Panchal P, Bhatia C, Eastmond P, and Giri J (2022). Monogalactosyl Diacylglycerol Synthase3 (OsMGD3) is involved in phosphate acquisition and utilization in rice. Journal of Experimental Botany.

  2. Bhunia RK, Menard G and Eastmond P (2022). A native promoter–gene fusion created by CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genomic deletion offers a transgene-free method to drive oil accumulation in leaves. FEBS letters.

  3. Guillaume N. Menard, Mollie Langdon, Rupam Kumar Bhunia, Aishwarya R. Shankhapal, Clarice Noleto-Dias, Charlotte Lomax, Jane L. Ward, Smita Kurup, Peter J. Eastmond (2022) Diverting phenylpropanoid pathway flux from sinapine to produce industrially useful 4-vinyl derivatives of hydroxycinnamic acids in Brassicaceous oilseeds. Metabolic Engineering.

  4. Bansal S., Sardar S., Sinha K, Bhunia RK, Katoch M, Sonah H, Deshmukh R and Ram H. (2021) Identification and molecular characterization of rice bran-specific lipases. Plant Cell Reports.

  5. Bhunia RK, Sinha K, Kaur R, Kaur S, and Chawla K. (2021) A Holistic View of the Genetic Factors Involved in Triggering Hydrolytic and Oxidative Rancidity of Rice Bran Lipids. Food Reviews International.

  6. View All Publication
  7. Bhunia R.K., Sinha K., Chawla K., Randhawa V., Sharma T.R. (2020) Functional characterization of two type-1 diacylglycerol acyltransferase (DGAT1) genes from rice (Oryza sativa) embryo restoring the triacylglycerol accumulation in yeast. Plant Molecular Biology.

  8. Sinha K., Kaur R., Singh N., Kaur S., Rishi V and Bhunia R.K. (2020) Mobilization of storage lipid reserve and expression analysis of lipase and lipoxygenase genes in rice (Oryza sativa var. Pusa Basmati 1) bran during germination. Phytochemistry, 180:112538.

  9. Chawla K., Sinha K., Neelam, Kaur R., and Bhunia R.K. (2020) Identification and functional characterization of two acyl CoA: diacylglycerol acyltransferase 1 (DGAT1) genes from forage sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) embryo. Phytochemistry, 176:112405

  10. Sinha K, Kaur R and Bhunia R.K (2019) Tailoring Triacylglycerol (TAG) Biosynthetic Pathway in Plants for Biofuel Production. In: Kuila A (ed) Sustainable Biofuel and Biomass: Advances and Impacts, CRC Press, New York, USA, DOI: 10.1201/9780429265099

  11. Joshi, R., Sharma, R., Bhunia, R.K., Prakash, A., and Kuila, A. (2019). Lipase production from mutagenic strain of Fusarium Incarnatum KU377454 and its immobilization using Au Ag core shells nanoparticles for application in waste cooking oil degradation. 3 Biotech, 9: 411

  12. Bhunia, R.K., Showman, L.J., Jose, A. and Nikolau, B.J. (2018) Combined use of cutinase and high-resolution mass-spectrometry to query the molecular architecture of cutin. Plant methods, 14, 117.

  13. Bhunia, R.K., Kaur, R. and Maiti, M.K. (2016). Metabolic engineering of fatty acid biosynthetic pathway in sesame (Sesamum indicum L.): assembling tools to develop nutritionally desirable sesame seed oil. Phytochemistry reviews, 15, 799-811

  14. Bhunia, R.K., Chakraborty, A., Kaur, R., Maiti, M.K. and Sen, S.K. (2016) Enhancement of α-linolenic acid content in transgenic tobacco seeds by targeting a plastidial ω-3 fatty acid desaturase (fad7) gene of Sesamum indicum to ER. Plant cell reports, 35, 213-226.

  15. Bhunia RK, Chakraborty A, Kaur R, Gayatri T, Bhat KV, Basu A, Maiti MK and Sen SK. (2015) Analysis of fatty acid and lignan composition of Indian germplasm of sesame to evaluate their nutritional merits. Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society, 92: 65-76.

  16. Bhunia, R.K., Chakraborty, A., Kaur, R., Gayatri, T., Bhattacharyya, J., Basu, A., Maiti, M.K. and Sen, S.K. (2014) Seed-specific increased expression of 2S albumin promoter of sesame qualifies it as a useful genetic tool for fatty acid metabolic engineering and related transgenic intervention in sesame and other oil seed crops. Plant Molecular Biology, 86: 351-365.

            1. Best Publication Award 2020-2021 (Agri-Biotechnology, NABI)

            2. Rothamsted International Fellowship, UK (2020)

            3. DST-INSPIRE Faculty Fellowship, India (2018-2022)

            4. BioAsia Innovation Award, India (2013)