High aspect ratio nanomaterials enable delivery of functional genetic material without DNA integration in mature plants

Nat Nanotechnol. 2019 May;14(5):456-464. doi: 10.1038/s41565-019-0382-5. Epub 2019 Feb 25.


Genetic engineering of plants is at the core of sustainability efforts, natural product synthesis and crop engineering. The plant cell wall is a barrier that limits the ease and throughput of exogenous biomolecule delivery to plants. Current delivery methods either suffer from host-range limitations, low transformation efficiencies, tissue damage or unavoidable DNA integration into the host genome. Here, we demonstrate efficient diffusion-based biomolecule delivery into intact plants of several species with pristine and chemically functionalized high aspect ratio nanomaterials. Efficient DNA delivery and strong protein expression without transgene integration is accomplished in Nicotiana benthamiana (Nb), Eruca sativa (arugula), Triticum aestivum (wheat) and Gossypium hirsutum (cotton) leaves and arugula protoplasts. We find that nanomaterials not only facilitate biomolecule transport into plant cells but also protect polynucleotides from nuclease degradation. Our work provides a tool for species-independent and passive delivery of genetic material, without transgene integration, into plant cells for diverse biotechnology applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Gene Transfer Techniques*
  • Gossypium / genetics*
  • Gossypium / metabolism
  • Nicotiana / genetics*
  • Nicotiana / metabolism
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism
  • Protoplasts / metabolism
  • Transgenes*
  • Triticum / genetics*
  • Triticum / metabolism