Hairy Root Culture for Mass-Production of High-Value Secondary Metabolites

Author(s): Srivastava S, Srivastava AK


Plant cell cultivations are being considered as an alternative to agricultural processes for producing valuable phytochemicals. Since many of these products (secondary metabolites) are obtained by direct extraction from plants grown in natural habitat, several factors can alter their yield. The use of plant cell cultures has overcome several inconveniences for the production of these secondary metabolites. Organized cultures, and especially root cultures, can make a significant contribution in the production of secondary metabolites. Most of the research efforts that use differentiated cultures instead of cell suspension cultures have focused on transformed (hairy) roots. Agrobacterium rhizogenes causes hairy root disease in plants. The neoplastic (cancerous) roots produced by A. rhizogenes infection are characterized by high growth rate, genetic stability and growth in hormone free media. These genetically transformed root cultures can produce levels of secondary metabolites comparable to that of intact plants. Hairy root cultures offer promise for high production and productivity of valuable secondary metabolites (used as pharmaceuticals, pigments and flavors) in many plants. The main constraint for commercial exploitation of hairy root cultivations is the development and scaling up of appropriate reactor vessels (bioreactors) that permit the growth of interconnected tissues normally unevenly distributed throughout the vessel. Emphasis has focused on designing appropriate bioreactors suitable to culture the delicate and sensitive plant hairy roots. Recent reactors used for mass production of hairy roots can roughly be divided as liquid-phase, gas-phase, or hybrid reactors. The present review highlights the nature, applications, perspectives and scale up of hairy root cultures for the production of valuable secondary metabolites.

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