Plant nanobionics approach to augment photosynthesis and biochemical sensing

  • A Corrigendum to this article was published on 22 April 2014


The interface between plant organelles and non-biological nanostructures has the potential to impart organelles with new and enhanced functions. Here, we show that single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) passively transport and irreversibly localize within the lipid envelope of extracted plant chloroplasts, promote over three times higher photosynthetic activity than that of controls, and enhance maximum electron transport rates. The SWNT–chloroplast assemblies also enable higher rates of leaf electron transport in vivo through a mechanism consistent with augmented photoabsorption. Concentrations of reactive oxygen species inside extracted chloroplasts are significantly suppressed by delivering poly(acrylic acid)–nanoceria or SWNT–nanoceria complexes. Moreover, we show that SWNTs enable near-infrared fluorescence monitoring of nitric oxide both ex vivo and in vivo, thus demonstrating that a plant can be augmented to function as a photonic chemical sensor. Nanobionics engineering of plant function may contribute to the development of biomimetic materials for light-harvesting and biochemical detection with regenerative properties and enhanced efficiency.

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Figure 1: Mechanism of SWNT trapping by chloroplast lipid bilayers.
Figure 2: The ss(AT)15–SWNT lipid exchange with the chloroplasts’ outer envelope via a passive uptake mechanism is dependent on zeta potential.
Figure 3: Nanoparticle transport inside isolated chloroplasts and leaves.
Figure 4: SWNT and nanoceria plant nanobionics.

Change history

  • 21 March 2014

    In the version of this Article originally published, in Fig. 4k, the scale bar should have been 16 μm, and in the sentence beginning “Leaves assembled with CoMoCAT…” the characteristic fluorescence peak for the (6,5) chirality should have read ‘(980–1,000 nm)’. These errors have now been corrected in the online versions of the Article.


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We gratefully acknowledge support from the U.S. Department of Energy under grant number DE-FG02-08ER46488 (M.S.S., S.M.F., A.A.B., T.P.M., A.H.J.). This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology under Grant No. 1103600 (J.P.G.). The co-authors were also supported by the NSF PRFB Fellowship under Award No. 1306229 (M.P.L), NSF GRFP (N.F.R.), and DPU-ILTEM and TUBITAK (F.S). We also thank S. Blake, J. Zhang and Darmouth Senior B. Gibbons for assistance. W. Salmon and N. Watson (Whitehead M. Keck Microscopy facility) helped with training and technical advice on confocal and TEM microscopy.

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J.P.G. and M.S.S. conceived experiments and wrote the paper. J.P.G., M.P.L., S.M.F., T.P.M. and N.M.I. performed experiments and data analysis. A.A.B., F.S., A.J.H., N.F.R. and J.A.B. assisted in experiments and analysis.

Correspondence to Michael S. Strano.

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Giraldo, J., Landry, M., Faltermeier, S. et al. Plant nanobionics approach to augment photosynthesis and biochemical sensing. Nature Mater 13, 400–408 (2014).

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