Ramesh Venkata Sonti earned his BSc degree from Andhra University and MSc and MPhil degrees from University of Hyderabad. His MPhil dissertation was under the guidance of Professor Arjula Reddy. He worked in the Department of Biology, University of Utah, USA (1983-90) where he obtained his PhD in bacterial genetics under the supervision of Professor John R Roth. He worked as Postdoctoral Fellow (1991-93) in the Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the supervision of Professor Ethan Signer. Since 1993, he has been working at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.
Academic and Research Achievements: Sonti's research has focused on understanding plant-pathogen interactions using, as a model, rice and the bacterial pathogen, Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae (Xoo). His work has led to the identification of novel Xoo virulence functions. These include: an adhesin like protein that plays an important role in attachment to and entry into rice leaves; an extra cellular signaling molecule that facilitates virulence by promoting iron uptake; a bacterial secretion system and its secreted proteins which are involved in degrading rice cell walls; lipolysaccharide and extracellular polysaccharide; and a phytase like secreted protein. He has shown how host innate immunity is induced as well as suppressed during rice-Xoo interactions. DNA fingerprinting studies have been used to show that a single Xoo lineage is widely distributed in India. Rice resistance genes that are effective against Indian strains of Xoo have been identified. Molecular markers have been used in a backcross breeding program to incorporate these resistance genes into the genetic background of commercially important rice varieties. Eight students have completed their PhD under his supervision.
Other Contributions: Sonti has led a team of scientists of CCMB and the Directorate of Rice Research, Hyderabad that together developed a rice variety called 'Improved Samba Mahsuri' which has been released for commercial cultivation. This variety is resistant to the serious bacterial blight disease that is caused by Xoo. He has been a Member of the International Organizing Committee for two International Conferences on bacterial blight of rice that have been held in Japan and China.
Awards and Honours: Dr Ramesh Sonti is a recipient of the SS Bhatnagar Prize in Biological Sciences and the National Bioscience Award for Career Development of the Department of Biotechnology. He is an elected Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad, Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore, National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi and Andhra Pradesh Akademi of Sciences, Hyderabad.