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IISER Bhopal Researchers Sequence Genome of Giloy, a Medicinal Herb, for the first time Globally

Used widely during the COVID-19 pandemic, Giloy has major applications in Pharmaceuticals & Ayurvedic formulations to treat various health conditions.

Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Bhopal Scientists have sequenced the Genome of Giloy (Tinospora cordifolia), a plant with medicinal properties, for the first time in the world.

The genome and transcriptome sequencing of Giloy is important due to its tremendous use in pharmaceuticals and ayurvedic formulations to treat various health conditions including COVID-19 and can provide deep insights into the genomic basis of its medicinal properties.

The usage of Giloy is also recommended under Ayurveda practice by the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, in prophylactic care as well as therapeutic applications for all symptomatic or asymptomatic patients infected with COVID-19. It is also used in fever and diabetes.

The research team was led by Dr. Vineet K. Sharma, Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, IISER Bhopal, and comprised Ms. Shruti Mahajan and Mr. Abhisek Chakraborty, PhD Students, IISER Bhopal, and Ms. Titas Sil, BS-MS Student, IISER Bhopal. The Research has been published in the international preprint server for biology bioRxiv.

“Giloy also has anti-microbial activity and is used in skin diseases, urinary tract infection, and dental plaque, among others. It is also found to reduce the clinical symptoms in HIV-positive patients and its antioxidant activity has anti-cancer and chemo-protective properties. Giloy extracts are found to be potential candidates in treating various cancers like brain tumour, breast cancer, and oral cancer, as well,” said Dr. Vineet K. Sharma, Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, IISER Bhopal.

The availability of the Giloy genome will help in bridging the missing link between its genomic and medicinal properties. This study will provide leads for exploring the genomic basis of its medicinal properties.

This research was undertaken by MetaBioSys Group, which focuses on the Indian microbiome including gut, scalp, skin microbiomes in healthy and diseased individuals. They also undertake pioneering work in sequencing and functional analysis of novel eukaryotic and prokaryotic genomes by developing and employing new Machine Learning-based software for Biology Big Data analysis.

Elaborating further about this research, Ms. Shruti Mahajan said, “Giloy is considered as an important multipurpose medicinal plant in Ayurvedic science. This plant came into the limelight due to its immunomodulatory and antiviral activity after the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been used in various health conditions due to its immune-modulatory, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-cancer properties, among others.”

The Key Aspects of this Genome Sequencing include

  • This is the first species ever sequenced from Menispermaceae plant family, which comprises of more than 400 species having therapeutic values.
  • A deep transcriptome sequencing of leaf tissue was also performed for this plant.
  • The draft genome assembly had a size of 1.01 Gbp and contained 19,474 coding gene sequences.
  • The phylogenetic position of Giloy was resolved through a comprehensive genome-wide phylogenetic analysis with 36 other plant species.
  • It will also aid in various comparative genomic studies and will act as a reference for the future species sequenced from its genus and family.

Previous studies have shown that a compound from Giloy was reported to target the two proteases of SARS-CoV-2 virus namely Mpro and Spike proteases, and another compound was predicted to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 Mpro and also disrupts viral spike protein and host ACE-2 interaction. Treatment with Giloy extract modulates the various pathways of the immune system for improved immunity. 

These multiple medicinal properties are because of the presence of its secondary metabolites. Despite these medicinal properties, the unavailability of its genome sequence was a constraint in studying the genomic basis of the medicinal properties. Thus, the genome sequence of Giloy could be a breakthrough as the potential therapeutic agent for diseases like COVID in the future.

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