Glandular trichomes (GT) of Artemisia annua produce valuable compounds for pharmaceutical and industrial uses, most notably the anti-malarial artemisinin. Our aim was to find out whether the density, number and size of GT can be manipulated to advantage by environmental stress. A range of external stress treatments, including stress response regulators, was therefore given to fully grown plants under field and greenhouse conditions. In a field experiment (Ex1), seed-grown plants were subjected to chemical or physical stress and plants analysed after 5 weeks. In a greenhouse experiment (Ex2), three groups of clonally derived plants were stressed at weekly intervals for 5 weeks. Stress treatments included sandblasting, leaf cutting and spraying with jasmonic acid, salicylic acid, chitosan oligosaccharide (COS), H(2)O(2) (HP) and NaCl (SC)at different concentrations. Leaves from an upper and a lower position on the plants were analysed by fluorescence microscopy to determine the density and size of GT. Densities of GT on upper leaves of full-grown A. annua plants generally showed no response to external stress and only plants from one clone of Ex2 supported the hypothesis that increased density of GT was inducible in upper leaves by stress (significant for SC, HP and COS). The density of GT on lower leaves was not affected by stress in any experiment. Glandular trichomes were significantly smaller on the lower leaves in response to stress in Ex2, and a similar non-significant trend was observed in Ex1. The results indicate a dynamic system in which stress treatments of large A. annua plants had a minor promoting effect on the initiation of GT in developing leaves, and a maturing effect of GT later in the lifetime of the individual GT. The hypothesis that applying stress can induce larger GT or more numerous GT was rejected.
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