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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Bhunia RK, Chakraborty A, Kaur R, Gayatri T, Bhat KV, Basu A, Maiti MK, 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.

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  7. 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.

DST - Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) - Faculty Scheme

Award: DST-INSPIRE Faculty Award

National Symposium on Plant Tissue Culture and Biotechnology for Food and Nutritional Security, 11-13 March, 2013

Award: First prize for best poster presentation.

BioAsia, 28-30 February, 2013

Award: Second Prize in Innovation Award category.