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Mesoporous silica nanoparticles deliver DNA and chemicals into plants


Surface-functionalized silica nanoparticles can deliver DNA1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and drugs9,10,11,12,13,14,15 into animal cells and tissues. However, their use in plants is limited by the cell wall present in plant cells. Here we show a honeycomb mesoporous silica nanoparticle (MSN) system with 3-nm pores that can transport DNA and chemicals into isolated plant cells and intact leaves. We loaded the MSN with the gene and its chemical inducer and capped the ends with gold nanoparticles to keep the molecules from leaching out. Uncapping the gold nanoparticles released the chemicals and triggered gene expression in the plants under controlled-release conditions. Further developments such as pore enlargement and multifunctionalization of these MSNs may offer new possibilities in target-specific delivery of proteins, nucleotides and chemicals in plant biotechnology.

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Figure 1: Mesoporous silica nanoparticles for plant cell internalization.
Figure 2: Confocal imaging of MSN uptake by tobacco mesophyll protoplasts.
Figure 3: Identifying the optimal DNA coating on Type-II MSNs.
Figure 4: Gene expression in plant cells incubated with MSNs.
Figure 5: GFP expression in tobacco plants induced by MSN-mediated delivery of β-oestradiol.


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We thank N.-H. Chua for providing pER8-GFP. Special thanks go to M. Carter for confocal microscope assistance, B. Frame and L. Moeller for discussions, and the Plant Transformation Facility personnel for providing maize immature embryos and maize callus media. The authors thank the Plant Science Institute at Iowa State University for financial support. V.S.-Y.L. thanks the U.S. NSF (CHE-0239570), the US DOE and the Office of Basic Energy Sciences (W-7405-Eng-82) for financial support for the synthesis and characterization of the MSN materials.

Correspondence regarding nanoparticles and requests for nanoparticle materials should be addressed to V.S.-Y.L.

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Authors and Affiliations



F.T. and K.W. conceived and designed the plant transformation experiments. F.T. performed the plant transformation experiments. V.S.-Y.L. and B.G.T. conceived and designed the surface functionalized mesoporous silica nanoparticle systems for the controlled release of DNAs and chemicals. B.G.T. performed experiments on the synthesis and characterization of the capped mesoporous silica nanoparticle materials. All authors discussed the results and participated in the writing of the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Victor S.-Y. Lin or Kan Wang.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Torney, F., Trewyn, B., Lin, VY. et al. Mesoporous silica nanoparticles deliver DNA and chemicals into plants. Nature Nanotech 2, 295–300 (2007).

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