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Phyllotech, LLC

Superfund Research Program

Phytoextraction of Cadmium from Plant Trichomes Expressing a Stabilized Antibody

Project Leader: Ryan W. Shepherd
Grant Number: R43ES021682
Funding Period: Phase I: September 2012 – August 2013
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This SBIR Phase I project is investigating the feasibility of utilizing a stabilized, cadmium-binding antibody to sequester cadmium in plant trichomes. Heavy metals such as cadmium are ubiquitous contaminants in soil surrounding industrial sites and have great deleterious impacts on human health. A great need exists for a strategy of heavy metal removal and recovery from soil that does not rely on expensive and toxic restoration techniques.

Phyllotech is pursuing the modification of a natural process of heavy metal phytoextraction in the genetically-tractable, high-biomass plant Nicotiana tabacum. The specific technological innovation is the targeted expression of a thermostabile cadmium-binding antibody within the gland cells of leaf surface structures called glandular secreting trichomes, to achieve high levels of cadmium sequestration outside of the main plant body so that plant growth is undeterred. The research objectives are to generate a stabilized antibody that binds cadmium, drive its expression in trichomes using patented promoters, and investigate if plants are enhanced in their abilities to extract cadmium from growth media. This work will demonstrate that trichomes of N. tabacum can be utilized to enhance cadmium extraction from soil, and will develop a foundation for the large-scale, selective phytoremediation of contaminants from diverse environments.

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