The Wangikar Lab

The Wangikar laboratory provides an effective research interface between the fields of engineering and biology. Our dedicated group of researchers are focused on the development of quantitative and model driven biotechnology. Our areas of research expertise include but are not limited to (i) Investigations into cellular metabolic pathways through 13C Metabolic Flux Analysis (ii) Bioprocess development for therapeutic proteins and enzymes (iii) Enzyme engineering for chiral synthesis and (iv) Metabolic engineering of cyanobacteria. The laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities like LC-MS/MS, Photo-bioreactors, Incubator shakers (with light and CO2 control), Computer controlled fermentators, Multimode readers and many more. The lab is currently funded by DBT (Government of India), Praj Industries Ltd., the Wadhwani Foundation, Reliance India Ltd., and the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF). With its thriving group of PhD students, postdocs and project staff, the Wangikar lab provides a productive research environment with opportunities for significant collaborations with both academia and industry.

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New research from the Wangikar lab

Mehta, Kanika, et al. Elevated carbon dioxide levels lead to proteome-wide alterations for optimal growth of a fast-growing cyanobacterium, Synechococcus elongatus PCC 11801.

The environmental considerations attributing to the escalation of carbon dioxide emissions have raised alarmingly. Consequently, the concept of sequestration and biological conversion of CO2 by photosynthetic microorganisms is gaining enormous recognition. In this study, in an attempt to discern the synergistic CO2 tolerance mechanisms, metabolic responses to increasing CO2 concentrations were determined for Synechococcus elongatus PCC 11801, a fast-growing, novel freshwater strain, using quantitative proteomics. The protein expression data revealed that the organism responded to elevated CO2 by not only regulating the cellular transporters involved in carbon-nitrogen uptake and assimilation but also by inducing photosynthesis, carbon fixation and glycolysis. Several components of photosynthetic machinery like photosystem reaction centers, phycobilisomes, cytochromes, etc. showed a marked up-regulation with a concomitant downshift in proteins involved in photoprotection and redox maintenance. Additionally, enzymes belonging to the TCA cycle and oxidative pentose phosphate pathway exhibited a decline in their expression, further highlighting that the demand for reduced cofactors was fulfilled primarily through photosynthesis. The present study brings the first-ever comprehensive assessment of intricate molecular changes in this novel strain while shifting from carbon-limited to carbon-sufficient conditions and may pave the path for future host and pathway engineering for production of sustainable fuels through efficient CO2 capture.

Sengupta, Annesha, et al. Fine-Tuning Native Promoters of Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942 To Develop a Synthetic Toolbox for Heterologous Protein Expression.

The cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942 is a potential photosynthetic cell-factory. In this study, two native promoters from S. elongatus PCC 7942 driving the expression of abundant cyanobacterial proteins phycocyanin (PcpcB7942) and RuBisCO (Prbc7942) were characterized in relation to their sequence features, expression levels, diurnal behavior, and regulation by light and CO2, major abiotic factors important for cyanobacterial growth. PcpcB7942 was repressed under high light intensity, but cultivation at higher CO2 concentration was able to recover promoter activity. On the other hand, Prbc7942 was repressed by elevated CO2 with a negative regulatory region between 300 and 225 bp. Removal of this region flipped the effect of CO2 with Rbc225 being activated only at high CO2 concentration, besides leading to the loss of circadian rhythm. The results from this study on promoter features and regulation will help expand the repertoire of tools for pathway engineering in cyanobacteria.

Sengupta, Annesha, et al. The effect of CO2 in enhancing photosynthetic cofactor recycling for alcohol dehydrogenase mediated chiral synthesis in cyanobacteria.

The light harvesting photosystem in cyanobacteria offers a potential pathway for the regeneration of the nicotinamide cofactor NADPH, thereby facilitating the application of cyanobacteria as excellent whole cell biocatalysts in oxidoreductase-mediated biotransformation. The use of cyanobacterial metabolism for cofactor recycling improves the atom economy of the process compared to the commonly employed enzyme-coupled cofactor recycling using enzymes such as glucose dehydrogenase. Here we report the asymmetric conversion of acetophenone to chiral 1-phenylethanol by recombinant Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942 whole cell biocatalyst that expresses the NADPH dependent L. kefir alcohol dehydrogenase. Besides light, it was observed that carbon dioxide levels play a critical role in improving the bioconversion efficiency possibly due to the enhanced growth rate and improved cofactor availability at elevated CO2 levels. Complete reduction of acetophenone to optically pure (R)-1-phenylethanol at 99% enantiomeric excess was achieved within 6 h with a relatively low cell density of 0.66 g/l by coupling optimum light and CO2 levels and without the need for a co-substrate.

Prasannan, Charulata B., et al. Mass Isotopologue Distribution of dimer ion adducts of intracellular metabolites for potential applications in 13C Metabolic Flux Analysis.

13C Metabolic Flux Analysis (13C-MFA) is a powerful tool for quantification of carbon flux distribution in metabolic pathways. However, the requirement to obtain accurate labeling patterns, especially for compounds with low abundance, poses a challenge. Chromatographic separation and high sensitivity of the modern mass spectrometers (MS) alleviate this problem to a certain extent. However, the presence of derivatives such as in-source fragments, multimer ion adducts, and multiply charged ions result in reduced intensity of the molecular ion. While multimer ion adducts have been reported in the field of metabolomics, their presence is considered undesirable in quantitative studies. Here, we demonstrate a novel application of dimer ion adducts in calculating the mass isotopologue distribution (MIDs) of the corresponding monomer ions for public domain and in-house generated datasets comprising of 13C-labeling time-course experiments. Out of the 100 standard compounds analyzed, we could detect multimer ion adducts in 24 of the intermediate metabolites. Further, a subset of these multimer ions were detected in all the biological samples analyzed. Majority of these ion adducts were either not detected in the original study or labeled as a putative feature. Regression analysis was performed to estimate the monomer MIDs from those of the dimer. This resulted in accurate estimation regardless of the biological system, chromatographic method, the MS hardware, or the relative abundance of the dimer ion. We argue that this analysis may be useful in cases where satisfactory data cannot be extracted from the chromatographic peaks of the monomer ions.

Fresh off the press:

Cyanobacteria are attractive candidates to explore the bio-production of a wide variety of chemicals. A systems biology approach that integrates the knowledge gleaned from available synthetic biology tools, molecular techniques and -omics databases could contribute to the expansion of the repertoire of existing chassis strains and allow the successful use of model and non-model strains of cyanobacteria as photosynthetic cell factories.

Check out our mini-review for "Current Opinion on Biotechnology." 

Poster winners at the DBT Annual conference on Bioenergy:

Minal Nenwani and Vaibhav Srivastava bagged  first and second place poster awards at this year’s conference in Kolkata. Congratulations!

more than 90
4 Current Grants
More than 15

areas of research expertise

Metabolic Engineering of Cyanobacteria
Cyanobacteria are an emerging platform for biotechnological applications due to their efficient photoautotrophic growth and amenability to genetic engineering.
Cyanobacteria are an emerging platform for biotechnological applications due to their efficient photoautotrophic growth and amenability to genetic engineering. In a future biorefinery, engineered cyanobacteria could be deployed for the production of biofuels and platform chemicals by harnessing solar energy and using CO 2 as feedstock. Engineering metabolic pathways in cyanobacteria will facilitate their use as potential ‘cell factories’ for the mass-production of a host of high value chemicals with a minimal investment of resources. By making modifications to existing pathways and introducing novel ones, the metabolic engineers and synthetic biologists in the Wangikar laboratory are striving towards higher titers of desired products through allocation of larger amounts of the fixed carbon towards the target pathways.
Enzyme Engineering
Altering the properties of existing enzymes to create their new and improved versions, is an exciting dimension of enzyme technology today.
Altering the properties of existing enzymes to create their new and improved versions, is an exciting dimension of enzyme technology today. Using various protein engineering approaches, factors like the yield and kinetics of the enzyme, the ease of downstream processing and various safety aspects can be vastly improved upon. Useful enzymes from undesirable or slow growing organisms could be cloned and produced in large quantities in other high-efficiency expression systems. This would prove to be a highly profitable resource for industrial applications such as the manufacturing of bulk chemicals and pharmaceuticals. In the Wangikar laboratory, scientists are mining enzyme sequences and through rational design trying to modify existing ones to produce ‘custom-made’ enzymes tailored for use in important industrial processes.
Bioprocess development
Bioprocessing is an essential part of many food, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries. Bioprocesses have been traditionally developed for a varied range of commercial products.
Bioprocessing is an essential part of many food, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries. Bioprocesses have been traditionally developed for a varied range of commercial products, from relatively cheap materials such as industrial alcohol and organic solvents, to expensive specialty chemicals such as antibiotics, therapeutic proteins, and vaccines. In the Wangikar laboratory, bioprocessing focuses on the use of enzymes in bacterial cell lysates to carry out commercially important bioconversions. Every aspect of this technology from process development, strain improvement to lab-scale production is fine-tuned towards maximizing yield of the target. Once tested on a smaller scale, the eventual goal of the successful development of a process is further scale-up and commercialization.
13C Metabolic Flux Analysis
In order to manipulate organisms to carry out fermentative and other processes towards production of important chemicals you need to understand metabolic fluxes of these organisms.
In order to manipulate organisms to carry out fermentative and other processes towards production of important chemicals you need to understand metabolic fluxes of these organisms so as to redirect or enhance fluxes towards products of interest. Currently the productivity of target chemicals is fairly low in cyanobacteria for instance, and the understanding of metabolic fluxes in these photosynthetic organisms especially those that have been metabolically engineered, will greatly help in improving the chances of using them as ‘cell factories’. With this and other interests in mind, researchers in the Wangikar laboratory are developing detailed protocols to study metabolomics through the lens of 13 C Metabolic Flux Analysis ( 13 C MFA). A defined 13 C-labeled substrate is incorporated into the carbon backbone of a wide range of metabolites of the metabolome, either through exchange or by synthesis. The distribution of labeled carbon traversing along metabolic pathways generates a characteristic imprint of labeling patterns whose mass signature is then observed by mass spectrometry (MS). The Wangikar lab has developed a sophisticated workflow for isotopic non-stationary 13 C-MFA of cyanobacteria and is striving to provide reliable flux maps for a number of strains of interest. This will provide the scientific community with an in-depth insight into the metabolomics of many cyanobacterial and algal strains.


Pramod P Wangikar

Prof. Pramod P. Wangikar is a faculty of the Department of Chemical Engineering in the Institute of Technology- Bombay (IIT-B). Prof. Wangikar obtained his Bachelor of Chemical Engineering from the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai and then earned his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa,

  1. 1991

    Bachelor of Chemical Engineering

    Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai
  2. 1995

    Ph. D on Tailoring Enzyme Function in Organic Media

    University of Iowa
  3. 1996

    Assistant Professor

    Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Kanpur
  4. 1997

    Assistant Professor

    Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bombay
  5. 2003

    Associate Professor

    IIT Bombay
  6. 2009


    IIT Bombay
  7. 2014


    Wadhwani Research Center for Bioengineering (WRCB)
  8. 2014

    Centre Coordinator

    DBT-Pan IIT Center for Bioenergy


State of the art facilities
The Wangikar lab is equipped with modern and sophisticated machinery to support most of its current research endeavors. Students and project staff are well-trained to use, collect and interpret data with frequent refresher courses, thereby facilitating the execution of their research goals. In-house availability of necessary equipment has saved Wangikar lab members valuable time and effort in collecting data, leading to quicker and high quality publications. Many of these facilities are accessible to others for a fee (see FACILITIES)
Dedicated group of researchers
With a large group of PhD Scholars, Postdoctoral Researchers, and Research Staff supporting ongoing projects, the Wangikar research team is strong in numbers and scientific talent. Most PhD scholars graduating from this lab have gone on to secure promising postdoctoral research positions in both academia and industry. Members of the lab have created a very conducive environment to achieve the best in all scientific endeavors through cooperation, collaboration and active scientific discourse.
Well funded laboratory
Financially viable with grants form both national and international agencies. The Wangikar lab is currently supported by large grants from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India and the Indo US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) to carry out innovative research in the field of bioenergy. The Wangikar lab also collaborates with leading Indian Industries such as Reliance India Limited (RIL) and Praj Industries to name a few, and has multiple active industry collaborations going on at any given time.
At the cutting edge of science and technology
The Wangikar research team always endeavors to tackle the most important and pertinent problems facing the scientific community in their fields of interest. They are constantly taking on and overcoming challenges associated with such ambitious research aims. As evident from the publication record, research scholars from the lab have steadily and successfully produced high impact scientific and technological advances through the years and continue to do so under the able leadership of their mentor, Prof. Wangikar.