A microscopy image showing layers in different colors and a network of neurons

Department of

Photo of Sagar   Pandit

Sagar Pandit

Assistant Professor


Chemical and molecular ecology of multitrophic interactions involving plant, herbivore and its natural enemies



PhD: National Chemical Laboratory Pune

Previous occupations:
Group Leader, Tritrophic Interactions Group: Department of Biochemistry, Max-Planck institute for chemical ecology, Germany
Group Leader, Lepidopteran Reverse Genetics: Department of Molecular Ecology, Max-Planck institute for chemical ecology, Germany

Awards and honors:
Max Planck India Partner group head (2016)
DBT Ramalingaswami Re-entry Fellow (2015-16)
Fellow of The Royal Entomological Society, UK (2021)
Fellow of The Entomological Society of India (2021)


Agricultural Biotechnology and Chemical Ecology (ABCE)

Plants produce a plethora of secondary metabolites to defend against their insect herbivores. Herbivores detoxify or rapidly excrete these chemicals to escape their ill effects. However, these mechanisms may not be exclusively beneficial. The upper trophic level organisms (predators and parasitoids) that consume these herbivores are sometimes susceptible to these compounds. Due to effective detoxification or rapid excretion, herbivores reduce the toxin content of their body which eventually renders them susceptible to their natural enemies. Conversely, some herbivores coopt plant defenses without metabolizing them and use them as their own defenses against natural enemies. Molecular and biochemical processes underlying them remain uncovered.

Our primary focus is on revealing the effect of the key factor of these interactions, herbivore’s counter-adaptation against plant defense, using the integration of modern transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics approaches with the classical field ecology-based methods. We study various crop-based multitrophic interaction systems with the aim to enhance the biological control of insect pests.

Selected Publications

Umesh, K. P., Pandey, P. P., Kumar, M., & Pandit, S. S.* (2021). An untapped plant defense: Eggplant’s steroidal glycoalkaloid solasonine confers deterrence against the Oriental leafworm Spodoptera litura. Entomologia Generalis.

Mitra, S., Firake, D. M., Umesh, K. P., Pandey, P. P., & Pandit, S*. (2021). Polyphagous caterpillars of Spodoptera litura switch from a trap crop to the main crop, improve fitness, and shorten generation time. Journal of Pest Science, 1-13.

Sun R., Gols R, Harvey JA, Reichelt M, Gershenzon J, Pandit S, Vassão DG (2020) Detoxification of plant defensive glucosinolates by an herbivorous caterpillar is beneficial to its endoparasitic wasp. Mol Ecol. 29(20): 4014-4031.

Sun R, Jiang X, Reichelt M, Gershenzon J, Pandit S*, and Vassa˜o DG* (2019) Tritrophic metabolism of plant chemical defenses and its effects on herbivore and predator performance. eLife 8: e51029.

Singh SK, Kumar P, Magdum R, Khandelwal U, Deswal S, More Y, Muduli S, Boomishankar R, Pandit S* and Ogale S*. Seed Power: Natural seed and electrospun PVDF nanofibre based triboelectric nanogenerators with high output power density. ACS Appl. Bio Mater. 2.8 (2019): 3164-3170.

Poreddy S, Mitra S, Schöttner M, Chandran JN, Schneider B, Baldwin IT, Kumar P, Pandit S* (2015) Detoxification of hostplant’s chemical defense rather than its anti-predator co-option drives ß-glucosidase-mediated lepidopteran counter-adaptation. Nat Commun, 6: 8525.

Kumar P, Rathi P, Schoettner M, Baldwin IT and Pandit S* (2014) Differences in nicotine metabolism of two Nicotiana attenuata herbivores render them differentially susceptible to a common native predator PLoS ONE, 9(4): e95982.

Kumar P, Pandit S, Steppuhn A, Baldwin IT (2014) Natural history-driven, plant-mediated RNAi-based study reveals CYP6B46’s role in a nicotine-mediated antipredator herbivore defense. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 111(4): 1245-1252.