864-889-0519 chg@clemson.edu

Molecular Geneticist


Email: lsunkar@clemson.edu

Sunkara Lakshmi


I received BVSc & A.H. (DVM equivalent) and Master’s degree in Poultry Science from Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University, Hyderabad, India. I worked as a clinical veterinarian in India. Then, I earned Ph.D. degree in Animal Science with a special emphasis on molecular immunology from Department of Animal Science, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, USA and continued in the same lab as a postdoctoral fellow and Research Assistant professor from 2012 to 2016. In 2016, I moved to Avian Diseases and Oncology Laboratory (ADOL), USDA, East Lansing, Michigan, worked over there as a postdoctoral fellow. Since 2019, I am working as a staff scientist at Clemson Center for Human Genetics, Greenwood, SC. Here, my main job responsibilities are performing in housing whole genome and RNA sequencing and various molecular biology techniques as well as helping graduate students, technicians, and supervising Core Genomics laboratory.


During my stay at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, USA, my research was mainly focused to develop alternatives to antibiotics by upregulation of gene expression of innate immune molecules of chicken and some of the Mammalian species. We discovered scores of small-molecule compounds with a strong capacity to enhance animal immunity and disease resistance by upregulating gene expression of a subset of innate immune molecules, namely, cationic host defense peptides (HDPs). Our study had revealed that histone acetylation, mitogen-activated protein kinases, and cAMP signaling pathways are the major players in dietary compound mediated-modulation of HDPs.

At ADOL, we developed a highly potent recombinant Marek’s Disease (MD) vaccine by deleting viral-encoded telomerase (vTR) and Meq oncogene in chicken. Additionally, I investigated the role of both innate and adaptive immune cells in MD vaccine mediated protection of chicken and found the possible role of Natural Killer cells in MD vaccine protection. To decipher the mechanism of cell-free enveloped infectious virions, we determined MD viral gene expression pattern in MD virus infected chicken skin using RNA sequencing technology. RNA-seq analysis data revealed 42 significantly differentially expressed MD viral genes, most of them are involved in viral replication, capsid, tegument and envelop formation.

Currently at Clemson Center for Human Genetics, I have been using the Illumina Novaseq6000 and Pac-Bio technology to sequence whole genome in order to understand and detect the relevant genes and mutations in rear genetic disease of children. Additionally, I am performing whole genome sequencing using Drosophila Genetic Reference Panel (DGRP3) as a model population to develop its reference panel. I am also simultaneously performing RNA sequencing to determine differentially expressed genes in the presence of different compounds in Drosophila.


Sunkara LT, Ahmad SM and Heidari M. 2019. RNA-seq analysis of viral gene expression in the skin of Marek’s disease virus infected chicken. Vet Immunol Immunopathol 213: 109882. doi: 10.1016/j.vetimm.2019.109882.

Sunkara LT, M  Heidari, and J Dunn. 2018. Protection efficacy of rMd5DMeqDvTR, a double deletion mutant Marek’s disease virus and its effect on bursal atrophy and viral replication in the skin of infected birds.

W Lyu, Z Deng, LT Sunkara, S Becker, K Robinson, R Matts, Zhang. 2018. High Throughput Screening for Natural Host Defense PeptideInducing Compounds as Novel Alternatives to Antibiotics. Front. Cell. Infect. Microbiol. | doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2018.00191.

Lyu AR Curtis, LT Sunkara, G Zhang. 2015. Transcriptional Regulation of Antimicrobial Host Defense Peptides. Current Protein and Peptide Science 16 (7), 672- 679.

Sunkara LT, RCurtis, G Zhang. 2015. Biology, expression, and regulation of host defense peptides: A minireview. Adv. Anim. Vet. Sci 3 (3s), 9-20.

Dhama, MS, SS Jacob, M Singh, K Karthik, AR Tiwari, LT Sunkara, YS Malik, RK Singh. 2015. Effect of immunomodulation and immunomodulatory agents on health with some bioactive principles, modes of action and potent biomedical applications. International Journal of Pharmacology 11 (4), 253290.

Dhama MK, K Karthik, Amarpal, R Tiwari, LT Sunkara, RK Singh. 2015. Neuroimmunomodulation Countering Various Diseases, Disorders, Infections, Stress and Aging. International Journal of Pharmacology 11 (2), 76-94.

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