Plant Cell Culture Engineering: An emerging tool for increasing the production of secondary metabolites in plants


The enhancement of production of bioactive secondary metabolites in cell cultures is one of the most important and challenging field to the researchers. Since last few decades, the demand of plant-derived pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals has increased tremendously. So, the establishment of new methodologies/strategies has to be monitored by investigation and enhancement of accumulation of novel phytochemicals in order to supply standardized drugs. Various strategies are being used for the enhancement of production of secondary metabolites in plant cell cultures are as follows:

  • Culture conditions: By manipulating culture conditions, the production of secondary metabolites (alkaloids, triterpenoids etc.) is increased.
  • Biotransformation: The on mechanism of biotransformation comprehensive studies have been made and used in the pharmaceutical industry for commercialization of pharmaceutical drugs.
  • Elicitation/precursor feeding: The elicitors directly related to the stimulation of defense responses in the plant cells. Due to stimulation of defense responses to biotic and abiotic stresses, plants do synthesize the secondary metabolites.
  • Genetic transformation: The secondary metabolites are considered as important natural metabolites and have multiple functions in plants as well as in human health. The chemical structures of so many molecules have been established in various plant species; some molecules are having significant biological and pharmacological properties.
  • Hairy root culture: The hairy roots are considered as differentiated tissue from callus and developed by infection of A. rhizogenes. The bacterium causes neoplastic growth on wounded site when cultured on hormone-free culture medium. The type of phytochemicals is similar with normal roots but the production is varies in both cases. The hairy roots are more suitable in production of secondary metabolites so, they are being exploited by the industrialists for the commercial production of secondary metabolites.

Source: Thilip C., Raju CS, Varutharaju K, Aslam A, Shajahan A. 2015. Improved Agrobacterium rhizogenes-mediated hairy root culture system of Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal using sonication and heat treatment. 3 Biotech 5, 949 - 956.

Bharat Singh

Amity University Rajasthan