Plant Cell Reports

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 207–218 | Cite as

The effect of roots and media constituents on trichomes and artemisinin production in Artemisia annua L.

  • Khanhvan T. Nguyen
  • Melissa J. Towler
  • Pamela J. WeathersEmail author
Original Paper


Key message

Rooting of Artemisia annua increases trichome size on leaves and helps drive the final steps of the biosynthesis of the sesquiterpene antimalarial drug, artemisinin.


Artemisia annua produces the antimalarial drug, artemisinin (AN), which is synthesized and stored in glandular trichomes (GLTs). In vitro-grown A. annua shoots produce more AN when they form roots. This may be a function not of the roots, but rather media components such as the phytohormones, α-naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA) and 6-benzylaminopurine (BAP), or salts and sucrose used to maintain either rooted or unrooted shoot cultures. We investigated how three main media components altered artemisinic metabolite production, pathway gene transcripts, and GLT formation in both mature and developing leaves in rooted and unrooted cultures. Although transcript levels of AN biosynthetic genes were not altered, AN levels were significantly different, and there were major differences in both artemisinic metabolite levels and trichomes in mature versus developing leaves. For example, NAA induced higher AN production in rooted shoots, but only in mature leaves. In developing leaves, BAP increased GLT density on the leaf surface. When both phytohormones were present, GLTs were larger on young developing leaves, but smaller on mature leaves. Furthermore, although other media components increased GLT density, their size decreased on young leaves, but there was no effect on mature leaves. Roots also appeared to drive conversion of artemisinic precursors towards end products. These results suggest that, while the presence of roots affects AN and trichome production, phytohormones and other media constituents used for in vitro culture of A. annua also exert an influence.


Auxin Cytokinin Trichomes Artemisinin Terpene Roots 



We thank Dr. Patrick Arsenault, University of Pennsylvania Medical School, for much including a critical reading of the manuscript; Victoria Huntress and Prof. Luis Vidali helped with confocal imaging; Prof. Humi Mayer, WPI Math department, assisted data analysis and Praphapan Lasin helped with plants. The project described was supported by Award Number NIH-2R15GM069562-03 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences or the National Institutes of Health.

Supplementary material

299_2012_1355_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.9 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1905 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Khanhvan T. Nguyen
    • 1
  • Melissa J. Towler
    • 1
  • Pamela J. Weathers
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department Biology/BiotechnologyWorcester Polytechnic InstituteWorcesterUSA

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