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Autar Mattoo

Plant Physiologist




B.Sc. (Chemistry, Botany, Zoology & Geology)

J & KUniversity, Kashmir, India 

M.Sc. (Biochemistry)

Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India

            Highest award in the graduating class

            (Summa cum laude)

Ph.D. (Microbiology)

            Maharaja Savajirao University of Baroda, India





Staff and Research


1/2005 - present         

Research Plant Physiologist/Biochemist ST/SL

The USDA Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory

ARS, BARC-W, Beltsville, Maryland.


7/2004 - 12/2004     

Supervisory Plant Physiologist/Biochemist ST/SL

The USDA Vegetable  Laboratory

USDA, ARS, BARC-W, Beltsville, Maryland.                    


4/1997 - 7/2004        

Research Leader, The USDA Vegetable Laboratory

USDA, ARS, BARC-W, Beltsville, Maryland.


7/1988 - 3/1997        

Research Leader, Plant Molecular Biology Laboratory

USDA, ARS, BARC-W, Beltsville, Maryland.


1/1996 - 1/1998        

'Special Member', Graduate Faculty

University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland


2/1988 - 7/1988        

Acting Research Leader, Plant Hormone Laboratory

USDA, ARS, BARC-W, Beltsville, Maryland.


2/1988 - 7/1988         

Plant Physiologist, GM-15

Plant Hormone Laboratory

USDA, ARS, BARC-W, Beltsville, Maryland.


1/1986 - 5/1993          

Adjunct Professor of Biological Sciences

University of Maryland, BaltimoreCounty Campus



5/1996 - 4/1998                      

Special Member, Graduate Faculty

University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland


10/1984 - 1/1988                    

Plant Physiologist, GM-14

Plant Hormone Laboratory

USDA, ARS, BARC-W, Beltsville, Maryland.


11/1982 - 12/1983                 

Visiting Scientist, Pathobiology,

National Institutes of Health - NCI

Building 10, Bethesda, Maryland


11/1980 - 10/1984                  

Joint Research Associate, Plant Hormone Laboratory

USDA, ARS, BARC-W, Beltsville, Maryland & Department of Botany

University of Maryland at College Park


1/1979 - 11/1980                    

DAAD Scholar (German Academic Exchange, FRG)

Department of Plant Genetics, The Weizmann Institute of Science Rehovot, Israel.


5/1978 - 6/1978                      

National Associate of University Grants Commission

India: Molecular Biology Unit, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay, India.


8/1969 - 1/1979                      

Lecturer (tenured Assistant Professor)                          

Faculty of Science, M.S. University of Baroda, India.



Post Doctoral


8/1976 - 8/1977                      

Visiting Scientist (Faculty Appointment)

USDA, ARS, BARC-W, Postharvest Physiology Lab, Beltsville, Maryland.



Visiting Scientist, Department of Botany

The University of New South Wales, Kensington, Australia.


3/1975 - 6/1976                      

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dept of Biochemistry

The University of Adelaide, South Australia.





9/1981 - 10/1982                    

Consulting Biochemist, Biotech Research Laboratories, Inc. Rockville, Maryland



Research Interests


Dr. Mattoo specializes in Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.  Develops fundamental information on cross talks between plant hormones, signaling pathways and regulatory genes involved in nutrient accumulation, fruit ripening, senescence, programmed cell death, and plant responses to environmental extremes. Studies assembly and function of the photosystem II reaction center proteins. Investigates integration of genetically engineered crops into sustainable, alternative agriculture from biochemical, molecular genetics and biotechnological perspectives. Functional genomics, proteomics and metabolomics are used for discovery research and to understand transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation in plants.



Summary of Ongoing Projects


Molecular Biology for Enhancing Phytonutrients in Tomato Fruit

Vegetables are essential components of the human diet, particularly because they benefit human health by providing vitamins, minerals and fiber. However, current levels of phytonutrients in vegetable crops are not sufficient to meet daily requirements. Moreover, as much as 30% of the harvest may be lost due to short shelf life of the produce. Spoilage due to postharvest pathogens and physiological disorders are additional constraints on fruit and vegetable marketability. A better understanding of the basic metabolism and key processes involved is needed to enable scientists to develop strategies for improving specific quality attributes in vegetables such as nutritional quality, and vine and shelf life. 

Ethylene is a plant hormone that significantly contributes to short shelf life and postharvest metabolism of plant organs.  We have targeted key genes in the fruit ripening process, and those in the polyamine biosynthetic pathway to prolong the shelf life and increase the nutritive value of tomatoes. We have developed genetically engineered tomato fruit lines that were modified to enable continuation of anabolic processes late into ripening and to produce higher amounts of the cancer-preventing antioxidants such as lycopene, amino acids such as glutamine, asparagine, lysine and arginine, and other micronutrients such as choline - an important nutrient with great potential for brain development.  Essential to obtaining these enhancements is the selection of development and stage specific promoters when generating gene constructs for genetic transformation of the select crop.  Detailed analysis of different transgenic tomato plants should help elucidate the key genes that control these processes.



Related Links:



Molecular biology of sustainable, alternative agricultural systems

Cover crop management in growing horticultural produce has attracted attention for reducing soil erosion and limiting the input of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.  Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth.), one of the cover crops, exhibits desirable attributes such as high N fixing ability, biomass quality, adaptability to low temperatures, resistance to pests, and fitness in vegetable production, particularly in rotation with tomatoes.  The interactions between the cover crop mulch and the tomato plant in the field plots result in delayed leaf senescence and increased disease tolerance. We have found that sustainable legume cover crop residue selectively regulates a select set of genes in tomatoes planted in such fields or in the greenhouse.

Related Links:

1. Agricultural biotechnology (II): Tough tomatoes
2. Tomatoes get genetic "boost" under sustainable ag system
3. Fewer Chemicals, Better Tomatoes?
4. Plants' Biological Clocks Help Them Prepare for the Day

Integrating Transgenic, Value-Added Plants into Alternative Cover Crop Practices

Agricultural research in the past century made significant strides towards developing improved germplasm, devising integrated pest management and defining cultivation practices.  Although this led to increased crop production and contained losses due to pests, it relies heavily on chemical inputs and has, unfortunately, resulted in increased production costs and detrimentally impacted ecosystems by introduction of agrochemicals, raising serious concerns for human and animal health.  Concerns about the environment and ecosystem have catalyzed efforts to seek alternative agricultural practices, involving legume cover crop mulches. As mentioned above, at Beltsville we have recently shown a select and unique relationship between leaf senescence, disease tolerance and specific gene expression in cover crop-grown tomato plant. In the future, if agriculture is going to make serious contributions to human health, it not only has to have a value-added advantage but it also has to be sustainable. Globally, success of value-added produce generated by transgenic technology will depend, in the long run, upon its sustainability, in addition to acceptance by the consumer.  Thus, it seems advantageous to integrate genetically engineered lines with the cover crop based agricultural practice. It remains to be seen if integration of value-added transgenics with eco-friendlier agricultural practices such as the hairy vetch-based alternative agricultural practice, which has been shown to reduce production costs by replacing chemicals with on-farm inputs, will become the basis of a new paradigm for sustainability of agriculture.

Edelman - Mattoo Photosynthesis Team
Dr. Autar Mattoo, Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory, Animal & Natural Resources Institute, Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, ARS, USDA and Prof. Marvin Edelman, The Sir Siegmund Warburg Chair of Agricultural Molecular Biology, Department of Plant Sciences, Weizmann Institute of Science, have worked as a synergistic team for the past two decades, discovering and unraveling the regulatory steps and mechanisms involved in the cycling of the PSII reaction center proteins, including the metabolism, intra-membrane mobility and reversible acylation and phosphorylation of the D1 protein.
More information available here.