Expression of Beta-Glucosidase Increases Trichome Density and Artemisinin Content in Transgenic Artemisia Annua Plants

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Departmental Papers (Dental)
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Genetic modification
artemisinin storage
global health
infectious disease
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Singh, Nameirakpam Dolendro
Kumar, Shashi
Daniell, Henry

Artemisinin is highly effective against multidrug-resistant strains of Plasmodium falciparum, the etiological agent of the most severe form of malaria. However, a low level of accumulation of artemisinin in Artemisia annua is a major limitation for its production and delivery to malaria endemic areas of the world. While several strategies to enhance artemisinin have been extensively explored, enhancing storage capacity in trichome has not yet been considered. Therefore, trichome density was increased with the expression of β glucosidase (bgl1) gene in A. annua through Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. Transgene (bgl1) integration and transcript was confirmed by molecular analysis. Trichome density increased up to 20% in leaves and 66% in flowers of BGL1 transgenic plants than Artemisia control plants. High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC, MS-TOF) data showed that artemisinin content increased up to 1.4% in leaf and 2.56% in flowers (g-1DW), similar to the highest yields achieved so far through metabolic engineering. Artemisinin was enhanced up to 5-fold in BGL1 transgenic flowers. The present study opens the possibility of increasing artemisinin content by manipulating trichomes density, which is a major reservoir of artemisinin. Combining biosynthetic pathway engineering with enhancing trichome density may further increase artemisinin yield in A. annua. Because oral feeding of Artemisia plant cells reduced parasitemia more efficiently than the purified drug, reduced drug resistance and cost of prohibitively expensive purification process, enhanced expression should play a key role in making this valuable drug affordable to treat malaria in a large global population that disproportionally impacts low-socioeconomic areas and underprivileged children.

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Plant Biotechnology Journal
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