Ramanjulu Sunkar, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


Research Interests

Sunkar’s primary research area is plant molecular biology involving gene regulation. This includes identification of key microRNAs and their target genes in switchgrass and other biofuel plant species. MicroRNAs are only recently identified gene regulatory molecules that regulate the target genes after producing the messenger RNA. The silencing of microRNA target genes at appropriate places and times is critical for plant development and stress tolerance. By manipulating the expression of these regulatory RNAs, or their targets that will not be recognized by microRNAs, we aim to improve biomass accumulation or stress tolerance of biofuel plant species including switchgrass.

“We hope to identify key factors important for biomass accumulation and stress tolerance that are controlled by microRNA-guided posttranscriptional gene regulation. Educating the public as well as prospective scientists in this important area of research will further strengthen our already established prominence in biofuels research.”

Teaching Responsibilities

Key Publications

Fu, C., Sunkar, R., Zhou, C., Shen, H., Zhang, J., Matts, J., Wolf, J., Mann, D.G.J., Neal Stewart, C., Tang, Y. and Wang, Z-Y (2012). Overexpression of miR156 in switchgrass results in various morphological alterations and leads to improved biomass production. Plant Biotechnology Journal, 10, 443-452.

Jagadeeswaran, G., Li, Y-F, Aysin, F. and Sunkar, R. (2013). Redox signaling mediates the expression of a sulfate-deprivation-inducible miR395 in Arabidopsis. Plant Journal DOI: 10.1111/tpj.12364

Matts, J., Jagdaeeswaran, G., Roe, B.A. and Sunkar R. (2010). Identification of microRNAs and their targets in switchgrass, a model biofuel plant species. Journal of Plant Physiology, 167, 896-904.

Sunkar, R., Li, Y. and Jagadeeswaran, G.  (2012).  Functions of microRNAs in plant stress responses. Trends in Plant Science, 17, 196-203.

Li, Y., Zheng, Y., Addo-quaye, C., Li, Z., Saini, A., Jagadeeswaran, G., Axtell M, Zhang, W, and Sunkar, R. (2010). Transcriptome-wide identification of microRNA targets in rice. Plant Journal, 62(5): 742-759.

Li, Z., Zheng, Y., Jagadeeswaran, G. Li, Y., Gowdu, K and Sunkar, R. (2011). Identification and temporal expression analysis of conserved and novel miRNAs in Sorghum. Genomics, 98: 460-468.

Li, Y., Zheng, Y. Jagadeeswaran G. and Sunkar, R. (2013) Characterization of small RNAs and their target genes in wheat seedlings using sequencing-based approaches. Plant Science, 203: 17-24.