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Plant Bioreactors and Their Classification
A Bioreactor is a device or vessel in which are designed to provide an effective environment for conversion of one material into some product by appropriate biochemical reactions and this conversion is carried out by the action of a biocatalysts like enzymes, microorganisms, cells of animals and plants, or subcellular structures such as chloroplasts and mitochondria. There are different bioreactors and they have different applications are including those for cell growth, enzyme production, biocatalysis, food production, milk processing, tissue engineering, algae production, protein synthesis, and anaerobic digestion. Bioreactors are classified depending on their operational conditions and the nature of the process. Bioreactors can be from different sources like animals, plants, microbes,etc.
Plants as bioreactors
Plant cells are an attractive heterologous expression host for foreign protein production. These are unique biocatalysts that have characters different from microorganisms or animal cells. Plants have become economically important systems for producing heterologous proteins. Expressing heterologous proteins in plant material that is used in human food or animal feed allows proteins to be applied orally or topically without having to purify them from the plant material. Plants have a distinct advantage for these applications. Thus, the recombinant products have an advantage over traditional microbial or mammalian host systems and the other features of plant cells as a production host along with are the cost-effective biomanufacturing and the capacity for complex protein post-translational modifications. Heterologous proteins like therapeutics, antibodies, vaccines and enzymes are expressed in plant cell culture-based bioreactor systems including suspended dedifferentiated plant cells, moss, and hairy roots, etc. The in vitro liquid cultures of plant cells in a fully contained bioreactor have become very promising alternative to traditional microbial fermentation and mammalian cell cultures as a foreign protein expression platform. These plant bioreactors are mainly used to produce therapeutic proteins, edible vaccines and antibodies for immunotherapy.

There are two basic processes that are used to produce recombinant proteins in plants one is generating the transgenic plants by stable integration of transgene into plant genome and the other is transient expression of the transgene  using plant viruses as vectors. The other techniques used for direct gene transfer are electroporation, polythene glycol mediated gene uptake and particle bombardment.

There are different plant bioreactors classified based on where the protein is produced:

Plant suspension cultures
In this plant cells are grown under sterile conditions as suspension or callus cultures and given the appropriate hormonal supplements for growth  and are used in expression of recombinant proteins, secondary metabolites and antibodies.

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Chloroplast bioreactor
The nuclear chromosomes of chloroplasts are inserted with the foreign genes that are responsible for required product.
Insulin, interferons and other proteins can be prepared in chloroplast bioreactor.

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Hairy root system bioreactor
This has rhizosecretion caused due to infection of agro bacterium rhizogenes and is highly stable and suitable for different biopharmaceuticals.

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Image source: ejbiotechnology

Seed based plant bioreactors
Seed is the most suitable bioreactor because of their large protein accumulation during its development. But specificity of expression and subcellular storage environment are the factors that will decide which seeds are used for producing desired products.
There are two types of seed based plant bioreactors:
  • Seed protein storage vacuole bioreactors
The protein storage vacuoles in seeds contain some dominant sub compartments like matrix, globoid and crystalloids which are best for storing recombinant protein. Matrix is suitable for soluble storage proteins, globoids for hydrolytic enzymes and crystalloids for some intrinsic protein sequences.
  • Seed oil body bioreactors
This bioreactor can store a large amount of macromolecules. It has oleosin proteins which are ideal carriers of heterologous proteins encircling the seed oil body. This also provides recognition signal for lipase binding during oil mobilization in seedlings.

Achieving the highest possible level of foreign protein production is transgenic plant is very important and this needs to have a strong promoter sequence that can enhance the expression of interest. These plant bioreactors  with their unique features show not only advantages but also some disadvantages.

They are cost effective, faster than transgenic animals, can produce large biomass and the pathogens do not effect animals and humans.

The difference in codons of prokaryotes and plants  can lead to inefficient expression, different polysaccharides may be attached to proteins and some plants may contain allergic compounds.
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Biotechnology science is exploiting its knowledge and technology in a field to develop effective alternative for non-renewable sources like Diesel and Petrol. Today the most promising fuel in this type is biofuel. The reason for this is that its production is based on natural activities which is cost effective and thus can act as replacement of non-renewable resources.
Biofuel production is done by a ways which makes it competitive for food production. Therefore, many companies are now a days trying to come up with innovative ways to solve this drawback of biofuel production. The unique way in this is to engineer microorganism to produce fuels! This may include engineering of microbes which will lead to production of chemicals, like Diesel, Ethanol and may be even bio gas.
During such processes, microbes are grown in closed glass or suitable bioreactors and are fed with favorable conditions like sunlight, nutrients and waste Co2 etc as required. Once the fuel is produced by microbial activities, it is separated from the growing solution and then harvested or collected in its purified form. Such bioreactor need locations which are with sufficient sunlight, water source which can be recycled and CO2 sources.
One of the most interesting things in bioreactors is that it is being used recently in architectures designs. You may not believe that many building in Germany and other countries are now using bioreactor beds during their constructions so as to produce energy. These building contain special bioreactors with microbial algae which with the help of photosynthesis produce energy which is utilized for power supply to all building as well as this act as superb shade for peoples living inside !
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the reference from where this information has been collected.
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