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CO2-Enriched Air Boosts Medicinal Value of an Endangered Plant

Paper Reviewed
Saldanha, C.W., Otoni, C.G., Rocha, D.I., Cavatte, P.C., Detmann, K. da S.C.,, Tanaka, F.A.O., Dias, L.L.C., DaMatta, F.M. and Otoni, W.C. 2014. CO2-enriched atmosphere and supporting material impact the growth, morphophysiology and ultrastructure of in vitro Brazilian-ginseng [Pfaffia glomerata (Spreng.) Pedersen] plantlets. Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture 118: 87-99.

According to Saldanha et al. (2014), "Pfaffia glomerata (fafia, ginseng brasileiro), a medicinal plant that naturally grows in Brazil (Pott and Pott, 1994), has great economic importance due to the production of secondary metabolites such as ß-ecdysone (20E) (Festucci-Buselli et al. 2008)," as a result of its "anabolic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutigenic, aphrodisiac, sedative and muscle tonic properties," which are described by Neto et al. (2005), Fernandes et al. (2005), Festucci-Buselli et al. (2008) and Mendes (2011). As a result of these facts, Saldanha et al. report that "many patents related to pharmacological and nutritional properties of genus Pfaffia have been published," citing Shibuya et al. (2001), Bernard and Gautier (20005), Olalde (2008), Rangel (2008), Loizou (2009) and Higuchi (2011). Not surprisingly, therefore, Saldanha et al. further write that "because of its economic relevance, the propagation of P. glomerata plays an essential role in producing raw material for the pharmaceutical industry," citing Saldanha et al. (2013). Against this backdrop, using two types of explant supports - either agar or Florialite (a mixture of vermiculite and cellulose) - the nine Brazilian scientists grew plantlets of P. glomerata in vitro within small acrylic chambers maintained at either 360 or 1,000 ppm CO2 for a period of 35 days, after which they assessed the plants' aerial and root dry mass, as well as the accumulation of 20E in their leaves and stems.

Saldanah et al. report that the extra 640 ppm of CO2 increased the aerial dry mass of the plantlets by 246% in the agar treatment and by 219% in the Florialite treatment, while it increased the root dry mass by 100% and 443% in the agar and Florialite treatments, respectively. In addition, they say that "the plants with a higher biomass also produced higher amounts of 20E." And in light of these findings Saldanah et al. state in the concluding sentence of their paper that their study highlights the fact that "a photoautotrophic system under CO2 enrichment may be attractive for the achievement of autotrophy by CO2, thus potentially being useful for the large-scale commercial production of Pfaffia seedlings or even for producing Pfaffia biomass containing high levels of ß-ecdysone." And that would help the pharmaceutical industry to produce a lot more of the medicinal products derived from this plant.

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Fernandes, J.F.O., Brito, L.C.,Frydman, J.N.G., Santos-Filho,S.D. and Bernado-Filho, M. 2005. An aqueous extract of Pfaffia sp. does not alter the labeling of blood constituents with technetium-99 and the morphology of the red blood cells. Revista Brasileira de Farmacognosia 15: 126-132.

Festucci-Buselli, R.A., Contim, L.A.S., Barbosa, L.C.A., Stuart, J.J. and Otoni, W.C. 2008. Biosynthesis and potential functions of the ecdysteroid 20-hydroxyecdysone - a review. Botany 86: 978-987.

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Saldanha, C.W., Otoni, C.G.,Notini,M.M., Kuki, K.N., Cruz, A.C.F., Rubio Neto, A., Dias, L.L.C. and Otoni, W.C. 2013. A CO2-enriched atmosphere improves in vitro growth of Brazilian ginseng [Pfaffia glomerata (Spreng.) Pedersen]. In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology - Plant 49: 433-444.

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Posted 2 October 2014