B.Sc. Meerut University;
M.Sc. Lucknow University;
M.Phil. Delhi University;
Ph.D. Delhi University
The two main objectives of my research program are (1) the study of regulatory signals that modulate plant development and stress mitigation, and (2) the development of in vitro technologies for propagation and conservation of plant genetic resources for the Canadian agricultural and horticultural industries. My program on biotechnology based germplasm conservation led to the establishment of the Gosling Research Institute for Plant Preservation (GRIPP) with a vision to save plant species valuable to life on earth through enhanced plant resilience in changing climates (www.gripp.ca). As the director of GRIPP, I manage institute’s research activities and global collaborations for plant conservation and commercial propagation of economically important plants including medicinal, ornamental, food, and tree fruit crops.
Current topics of research in my lab include: (1) Identification and application of novel compounds which stimulate plant development and stress mitigation; (2) Development of Integrated Plant Production Systems for crops of economic and ecological importance; and (3) Establishment of a Cryopreservation Bank of Canadian and international plant biodiversity.
Below is a summary of ongoing research projects in my lab:
Indoleamines in plant growth regulation
A central unifying theme of my research has been to understand the processes of plant morphogenesis regulated by unique, non-traditional plant growth regulators such as melatonin and serotonin, the indoleamine, which influence almost every aspect of plant life from morphogenesis to reproduction. Indoleamines also possess exceptional stress mitigation attributes enabling plants to redirect growth in response to environmental stresses. We demonstrated that such modulations in plant development and stress mitigation responses may occur via a symphony of actions of molecules in the entire indoleamine pathway rather than a specific molecule. Real-time tracking of melatonin and serotonin using Quantum Dot nanoparticles showed that plants have a mechanism to utilize these molecules as antioxidants in coping with stress. We continue to research the biochemical and molecular mechanisms of diverse functions of indoleamines, as well as, their interactions with other signaling networks in plant adaptations to biotic and abiotic stresses.
In Vitro Conservation of Endangered Germplasm
Climate change is the biggest threat to plant life and as global climates continue to change more quickly than species can adapt, loss of biodiversity will continue. My lab is dedicated to advancing the knowledge of plant development in controlled environments for the conservation, sustainable use, and restoration of threatened plant species. Our approach for saving plants in peril of extinction is referred to as CPR - Conservation, Propagation and Restoration - and consists of 3 stages: (1) cryobanking plant biodiversity, (2) mass propagation in vitro, and (3) redistribution of plants back into their native habitats. The CPR model for the recovery of endangered species of Bruce peninsula in Ontario, Canada, has been successfully established in a collaborative project with Parks Canada, with planting of micropropagated plants of critically threatened Hill’s Thistle (Cirsium hillii) from GRIPP Cryobank (https://news.uoguelph.ca/2017/06/plant-preservation-institute-works-to-preserve-endangered-thistle/). The plants of interest in the CPR projects include species that are rare, endangered, traditionally used in medicinal, spiritual and cultural practices, or critical to food security. Issues related to the role of plants and plant-based practices in connecting humans to aspects of environment, health, consciousness, and spirituality, are discussed in my online magazine Spiritual Botany (www.spiritualbotany.com).
Integrated Plant Production Systems (IPPS): Medicinal, Ornamental, and Food Crops
My research group has developed efficient mass multiplication protocols to grow plants that are chemically consistent and free of biological and environmental pollutants. Controlled environment production technology combines the use of micropropagation, including large-scale multiplication in bioreactors, with cultivation in growth chambers and greenhouses to achieve optimum plant development and chemical profiles. This integrated approach has important applications in the rapid production and commercialization of value-added crops important to Ontario agriculture such as hops, ginseng, goldenseal, hazelnut, chestnut, and potato in addition to novel, native ornamentals. An example of the success of IPPS is seen in production of apple root stocks and hazelnut cultivars in Ontario highlighted in the annual report of the Ontario Centre of Excellence (https://indd.adobe.com/view/6cd9a3bb-c4eb-4012-b418-f80dfbf18952).
Erland, L.A.E., A. Yasunaga, I.T.S. Li, S.J. Murch, P.K. Saxena. (2019). Direct visualization of location and uptake of applied melatonin and serotonin in living tissues and their redistribution in plants in response to thermal stress. Journal of Pineal Research 66: e12527. doi: 10.1111/jpi.12527
Erland, L., M.R. Shukla, A. Singh, S. Murch, P.K. Saxena. (2018). Melatonin and serotonin: mediators in the symphony of plant morphogenesis. Journal of Pineal Research 64: e12452. doi: 10.1111/jpi.12452
Salama, A., M.R. Shukla, E. Popova, N.S. Fisk, A.M.P. Jones, P.K. Saxena. (2018). In vitro propagation and reintroduction of golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta), a critically imperilled plant species. Canadian Journal of Plant Science 98: 762-770.
Salama, A., E. Popova, A.M.P. Jones, M.R. Shukla, N.S. Fisk, P.K. Saxena. (2018). Cryopreservation of the critically endangered golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta Greenm.): from nature to cryobank to nature. In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology - Plant 54: 69-78.
Erland, L., M. Shukla, W. Glover, P.K. Saxena. (2017). A simple and efficient method for analysis of plant growth regulators: a new tool in the chest to combat recalcitrance in plant tissue culture. Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture 131: 459-470.
Sherif, S., L. Erland, M. Shukla, P.K. Saxena. (2017). Bark and wood tissues of American elm exhibit distinct responses to Dutch elm disease. Scientific Reports 7:7114.
Shukla, M., A . Singh, K. Piunno, P. Saxena, A. Jones. (2017). Application of 3D printing to prototype and develop novel plant tissue culture systems. Plant Methods 13: 6
Padmanabhan, P., M. Shukla, J. Sullivan, P.K. Saxena. (2017). Iron supplementation promotes in vitro shoot induction and multiplication of Baptisia australis. Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture 129:145-152.
Sherif, S.M., M.R. Shukla, S.J. Murch, L. Bernier, P.K. Saxena. (2016). Simultaneous induction of jasmonic acid and disease-responsive genes signifies tolerance of American elm to Dutch elm disease. Scientific Reports 6: 21934.
Erland, L., A. Chattopadhyay, A. Jones, P.K. Saxena. (2016). Melatonin in plants and plant culture systems: variability, stability and efficient quantification. Frontiers in Plant Science 7: 1721
Popva, E., H.H. Kim, P.K. Saxena, F. Engelmann, H.W. Pritchard. (2016). Frozen Beauty: The cryobiotechnology of orchid diversity. Biotechnology Advances 34:380-403. Doi: doi:10.1016/j.biotechadv.2016.01.001
Erland, L., C. Turi, P.K. Saxena. (2016). Serotonin: an ancient molecule and an important regulator of plant processes. Biotechnology Advances 34:1347-1361.
Rathwell, R., M. Shukla, A.M.P. Jones, P.K. Saxena. (2016). In vitro propagation of cherry birch (Betula lenta L.). Canadian Journal of Plant Science 96: 571-578. Doi: 10.1139/CJPS-2015-0331.
Bajwa, V.S., M.R. Shukla, S.M. Sherif, S.J. Murch, P.K. Saxena. (2015). Identification and characterization of serotonin as an anti-browning compound of apple and pear. Postharvest Biology and Technology 110: 183–189.
Latawa, J., M.R. Shukla, P.K. Saxena. (2015). An efficient temporary immersion system for micropropagation of hybrid hazelnut. Botany 94: 1-8.