Mentors: Knutson & Rankin
Plants offer an extraordinary variety of bioactive small molecule metabolites that are potentially valuable as pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and agrochemicals. Production of these metabolites in plant cell cultures (e.g., hairy root cultures), can be directed through genetic manipulation or environment, such as exposure to pathogens. This proposal aims to generate nanoparticles which bind selective components of plant microbial pathogens and which are taken up by plant cells in cultures to elicit a specific defensive secondary metabolite. Porous, high surface area silica nanoparticles will be designed as a pathogen carrier into the plant cells, where the particle size, pore size, and surface functionalization will be the properties that determine the effectiveness of the carrier (Theme 1). The viability of hairy root cultures, particle uptake, and secondary metabolite production will be used as measures of the effectiveness of the carrier/pathogen combination (Theme 2). This research takes advantage of our ability to synthesis tailored silica platforms and evidence for plant cell viability following the uptake of nanoparticles. Elicitation of selective defensive metabolites through nanoparticle delivery has application to both the production of high value added therapeutics as well as understanding the mechanism of the pathogens, which have difficulty passing into the cell directly.