Plant Bioreactors

Transgenic plants are excellent hosts for production of therapeutic proteins in capacities on the order of 10 kg/acre and have been tried out in tobacco, maize, soybean, and alfalfa (210). Transgenic plants have the advantages of accumulation within plants or secretion from roots or leaves, high yields, economic scalability, establishment of permanent lines, containment, and purification (211). Transgenic root systems offer immense potential for introducing additional genes along with the Ri-T-DNA genes for alteration of metabolic pathways and production of useful metabolites (212). The main constraints for commercial exploitation of hairy root cultures for the production of valuable secondary metabolites are the complications associated with scale up. Transgenic potatoes provide a viable alternative to the conventional chemical method for production of high levels of platinose in the storage tissues of the crop (213). Plants can also serve as bioreactors for the production and scale up of functional antibodies used in immunotherapy. Proteins expressed in genetically modified plants (GM-plants) are tested for their potential use as human and animal vaccines (214). To maximize the potential of plants as industrial bioreactors for the production of proteins, efficient expression systems utilizing promoters like cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) are widely used (215). From an economical perspective, the production cost of biomolecules using plants is potentially less than that of using a fermentation process, because solar energy, CO2, and inorganic chemicals are sufficient to drive the plant process; while relatively expensive equipment, substrates, and electric energy are required in fermentation (216).

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