In an attempt to find the therapeutic properties of the Holy Basil (tulsi), Indian scientists have sequenced the whole genome of the herb, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) announced on Monday.
All parts of this herb—the dried leaves, the dried whole plant and seeds—are used in several systems of traditional medicine, including Ayurveda, Greek, Roman, Siddha, and Unani. Tulsi is considered holy in India.
Holy Basil is rich in organic compounds such as phenylpropanoids and terpenoids which are known to have therapeutic properties. The availability of the genome sequence now opens the possibility of identifying genes involved in producing therapeutic molecules and to produce them in vitro (in the lab) according to CSIR.
“This will also facilitate identification of not-yet-identified genes involved in the synthesis of important secondary metabolites in this plant,” said a press release issued by CSIR.
The genome sequence and annotation of Basil provides new insights into the function of genes and the medicinal nature of the metabolites synthesized in this plant. This information is highly beneficial for mining biosynthetic pathways for important metabolites in related species, said a 2014 study published by the CSIR scientists behind the exercise in BMC Genomics.
According to the scientists, the development of molecular tools and genomic resources will accelerate molecular breeding and ultimately the utility of basil in medical community. The nuclear genome of basil is the smallest in the family Lamiaceae, while the chloroplast genome is the smallest in the order Lamiales.
Leaf tissues of basil were collected from the experimental farm at the CSIR-Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants based in Lucknow. The genomic DNA was isolated from the leaves of basil and was analysed for its concentration and integrity.