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High Aspect Ratio Nanomaterials Enable Delivery of Functional Genetic Material Without DNA Integration in Mature Plants

By Gozde S. Demirer, Huan Zhang, Juliana L Matos, Natalie Goh, Francis Cunningham, Younghun Sung, Roger Chang, Abhishek J Aditham, Linda Chio, Myeong-Je Cho, Brian Staskawicz, Markita P. Landry

Posted 22 Aug 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/179549 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41565-019-0382-5)

Genetic engineering of plants is at the core of sustainability efforts, natural product synthesis, and agricultural crop engineering. The plant cell wall is a barrier that limits the ease and throughput with which exogenous biomolecules can be delivered 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 tissues and organs of intact plants of several species with a suite of 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 also demonstrate a second nanoparticle-based strategy in which small interfering RNA (siRNA) is delivered to Nb leaves and silence a gene with 95% efficiency. 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.

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