The multiplicity of hairy root cultures: Prolific possibilities

Nadia N. Ono, Li Tian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


Hairy root cultures (HRCs), induced by Agrobacterium rhizogenes infection, have been established from a wide variety of plant species. HRCs accumulate phytochemicals to levels comparable to that of intact plants and are usually stable in their biosynthetic capacity. When optimized for liquid cultures, hairy roots can be grown in industrial-scale bioreactors providing a convenient, abundant and sustainable source of phytochemicals. Due to their ease of propagation and growth in confined environments, HRCs have also been used in recent years in the synthesis of recombinant therapeutic proteins, especially those that have been challenging to express in bacteria, yeast and mammalian expression systems. Although phytochemicals are recognized for their important roles in plant and human health, large gaps still exist in understanding how phytochemicals (in particular, secondary/specialized metabolites) are synthesized in plants. This review presents recent developments and findings in phytochemical and recombinant protein production, as well as new revelations in gene discovery and biochemical pathway elucidation, by the utilization of HRCs. Although many challenges still exist for industrial applications of HRCs, the immediate future of this diverse system, especially for the bench-side scientists, is still found to be promising and abounding in possibilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-446
Number of pages8
JournalPlant Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Agrobacterium rhizogenes
  • Hairy roots
  • Phytochemical
  • Plant secondary metabolism
  • Recombinant protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science
  • Genetics
  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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