Hyped-up hopes for hairy roots as biofactories

Oct 08, 2007

Scientists are reporting an advance towards tapping the immense potential of 'hairy roots' as natural factories to produce medicines, food flavorings and other commercial products. Their study is scheduled for the November/December issue of ACS' Biotechnology Progress.

The new research makes use of structures formed by a common soil bacterium that infects plants and incorporates its own DNA into the plant's genome. By inserting a specific gene into the bacterium, researchers can integrate that gene into the host's DNA.

Eventually, the host plant develops a system of fuzzy roots near the site of the infection. These so-called 'hairy roots' can be grown in cell cultures that churn out the product of the inserted gene -- a natural-product based or a protein-based drug, for instance -- with a stability and productivity not possible with most other plant cell cultures.

In the new study, Ka-Yiu San and colleagues point out that scientists have long wanted to harness the production prowess of hairy roots for industry, but first needed to determine the long-term stability of genetically-altered roots.

They report maintaining growth of a transgenic hairy root culture for more than 4.5 years. At the outset, they infected a species of periwinkle with a hairy root bacterium carrying a gene encoding a fluorescent protein. Through this process they were able to generate transgenic hairy roots that contain the fluorescent protein.

By transferring root tips into fresh liquid every four weeks, the researchers created a root culture that was genetically stable throughout that period, glowing appropriately in response to a special chemical signal. The integrated DNA also remained unaltered throughout the experiment. "This observation has important implications for the use of hairy root cultures in industrial applications," the report states.

Source: American Chemical Society

Explore further: Prized sea snail not at risk of extinction, federal officials say

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cover crops can sequester soil organic carbon

Dec 02, 2014

A 12-year University of Illinois study shows that, although the use of cover crops does not improve crop yields, the practice does increase the amount of sequestered soil organic carbon using three different ...

Scientists learn how horseweed shrugs off herbicide

Jun 16, 2011

As everyone knows, the pharmaceutical industry is struggling to deal with bacteria that have become resistant to common antibiotics. Less well known is the similar struggle in agribusiness to deal with weeds ...

Recommended for you

Keep dogs and cats safe during winter

Dec 27, 2014

(HealthDay)—Winter can be tough on dogs and cats, but there are a number of safe and effective ways you can help them get through the cold season, an expert says.

Scientists target mess from Christmas tree needles

Dec 26, 2014

The presents are unwrapped. The children's shrieks of delight are just a memory. Now it's time for another Yuletide tradition: cleaning up the needles that are falling off your Christmas tree.

Top Japan lab dismisses ground-breaking stem cell study

Dec 26, 2014

Japan's top research institute on Friday hammered the final nail in the coffin of what was once billed as a ground-breaking stem cell study, dismissing it as flawed and saying the work could have been fabricated.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.