Withanolide Production in Hairy Root Culture of Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal: A Review

  • Ganeshan SivanandhanEmail author
  • Natesan Selvaraj
  • Andy Ganapathi
  • Yong Pyo LimEmail author
Living reference work entry
Part of the Reference Series in Phytochemistry book series (RSP)


Indian ginseng [Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal; Solanaceae] is a significant aromatic medicinal as well as industrial plant in India and in other regions. The plant has numerous pharmaceutical uses owing to synthesis of steroidal lactones, “withanolides,” mainly in leaves and roots. Hence, Govt. of India has graded this aromatic plant in top 36 cultivated precious medicinal plants in focus of immense requirement for market and medicine production. The traditional cultivation method of W. somnifera suffers from severe shortage in production to provide sufficient raw materials for phytochemical synthesis and medicinal formulations due to biotic and abiotic factors, poor seed germination, loss or low seed viability, etc. This necessitates consistent supply of raw materials to produce secondary metabolites by exploiting biotechnological tools like cell/organ cultures. Over the few decades, numerous approaches have been made to develop and optimize cell and organ culture protocols for W. somnifera such as direct and indirect organogenesis, suspension-based shoot and cell cultures, adventitious root culture, hairy root culture, and plant transformation for production of plants and withanolides. Several reports indicated the potential utilization of in vitro cell/organ cultures to be put into use in large-scale commercial multiplication of plants and secondary metabolite production as in Panax ginseng and other plants. This review presents a comprehensive account of works performed on hairy root culture of W. somnifera in the last two decades.


Withania somnifera Biomass accumulation Carbon sources Elicitors Hairy root culture Macro elements Nitrogen sources Over expression Withanolides 



Acetyl salicylic acid


Beta-carotene linoleic acid model system




Dry weight


Fresh weight




Growth index


High performance liquid chromatography


Hairy root


Indole acetic acid


Jasmonic acid


Potassium dihydrogen phosphate


Potassium nitrate


Luria-Bertani medium


Methyl jasmonate


Non-mevalonate pathway






Mevalonate pathway


Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate


Nutrient Broth medium


Ammonium ion


Nitrate ion


Phenylalanine ammonia lyase


Hairy root-inducing plasmid


Salicylic acid




Tricalcium phosphate medium


Transfer DNA


Traditional Indian system


Withania somnifera


Yeast extract peptone


Yeast mannitol broth





The first author is thankful to the Korea Research Fellowship Program (2017H1D3A1A01054325) through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT, South Korea.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Molecular Genetics and Genomics Laboratory, Department of Horticulture, College of Agriculture and Life SciencesChungnam National UniversityDaejeonSouth Korea
  2. 2.Department of BotanyPeriyar E. V. R College (Autonomous)TiruchirappalliIndia
  3. 3.Department of Biotechnology, School of Life SciencesBharathidasan UniversityTiruchirappalliIndia

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