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In vitro techniques for the improvement of growth and secondary metabolite production in Eucomis autumnalis subspecies autumnalis.

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The wide utilization and popularity of medicinal plants in African Traditional Medicine (ATM) has been recognized and attributed to the effectiveness, affordability and accessibility of these medicinal plants. However, the extensive exploitation of medicinal plants has exacerbated the strain on the wild populations. In vitro propagation/micropropagation is an effective method which allows for mass production or multiplication of pathogen-free plants that are morphologically and genetically identical to the parent plant. In addition, the technique is contributing to the understanding of metabolic pathways and regulating the production of plant secondary products. Eucomis autumnalis (Mill.) Chitt. subspecies autumnalis (Hyacinthaceae) is a valuable medicinal species in ATM and commonly traded in the urban street markets of South Africa. Currently, the conservation status of this species has not been evaluated. However, as with most bulbous plants, the wild population is continuously under threat due to over-harvesting and habitat loss via various anthropogenic factors. Thus, in vitro propagation is a viable means of ensuring conservation of the plant species. However, mass propagation of medicinal plants should be accompanied with increased secondary metabolite production to guarantee their therapeutic efficacy. Therefore, the current study was aimed at understanding the different factors that affect the growth and secondary metabolite production in micropropagated E. autumnalis subspecies autumnalis. The influence of the type of gelling agent (gelrite versus agar) and source of initial/primary explant source (LDL = leaf explant derived from primary leaf regenerants and LDB = leaf explant derived from primary bulb regenerants) were evaluated. Gelrite-solidified medium significantly improved shoot proliferation when compared to the use of agar as a solidifying medium. In contrast, quantified phytochemicals such as flavonoids and phenolics were more enhanced in agar-supplemented media. On the basis of the explant source, shoot proliferation and secondary metabolites in regenerants from LDB were similar to those from LDL in most cases. Overall, the type of gelling agents and primary explant source individually or/and interactively significantly influenced the growth parameters as well as the production of iridoid, condensed tannin, flavonoid and phenolic content. The influence of different types of plant growth regulators (PGRs) on growth, phytochemical and antioxidant properties were evaluated. The PGRs were BA (benzyladenine); mT (meta-topolin); mTTHP [meta-topolin tetrahydropyran-2-yl or 6-(3-hydroxybenzylamino)-9-tetrahydropyran-2-ylpurine]; MemT [meta-methoxytopolin or 6-(3-methoxybenzylamino)purine]; MemTTHP [meta-methoxy 9-tetrahydropyran-2-yl topolin or 2-[6-(3-Methoxybenzylamino)-9-(tetrahydropyran-2-yl)purine] and NAA (α-naphthalene acetic acid). Five cytokinins (CKs) at 2 μM in combination with varying (0, 2.5, 5, 10, 15 μM) concentrations of NAA were tested. After 10 weeks of in vitro growth, the regenerants were acclimatized in the greenhouse for four months. Growth, phytochemical content and antioxidant activity of in vitro regenerants and ex vitro-acclimatized plants were evaluated. The highest number of shoots (approximately 9 shoots/explant) were observed with 15 μM NAA alone or with BA treatment. Acclimatized plants derived from the 15 μM NAA treatment had the highest number of roots, largest leaf area and widest bulb diameter. While applied PGRs increased the iridoids and condensed tannins in the in vitro regenerants, total phenolics and flavonoids were higher in the PGR-free treatment. In contrast to the PGR-free regenerants, 5 μM NAA and 2 μM BA treatments produced the highest antioxidant activity in the DPPH (55%) and beta-carotene (87%) test systems, respectively. A remarkable carry-over effect of the PGRs was noticeable on the phytochemical levels and antioxidant activity of the 4-month-old plants. In addition to the development of an optimized micropropagation protocol, manipulating the type and concentration of applied PGRs may serve as an alternative approach to regulate phytochemical production in Eucomis autumnalis subspecies autumnalis. The influence of smoke-water (SW), karrikinolide (KAR1) and CK analogues (PI-55 = 6-(2-hydroxy-3-methylbenzylamino)purine and INCYDE= inhibitor of cytokinin dehydrogenase or 2-chloro-6-(3-methoxyphenyl)aminopurine) individually or in combination with some selected PGRs [BA (4 μM), NAA (5 μM) and both] for in vitro propagated E. autumnalis subspecies autumnalis was evaluated. While these compounds had no significant stimulatory effect on shoot proliferation, they influenced root length at varying concentrations and when interacted with applied PGRs. The longest roots were observed in SW (1:1500), PI-55 and INCYDE (0.01 μM) treatments. There was an increase in the concentration of quantified phytochemicals (especially condensed tannins, flavonoids and phenolics) with the use of these compounds alone or when combined with PGRs. In the presence of BA, an increase in the concentration of PI-55 significantly enhanced the condensed tannin, flavonoid and phenolic contents in the regenerants. Both phenolic and flavonoid content in E. autumnalis subspecies autumnalis were significantly enhanced with 0.01 μM INCYDE. Condensed tannins was about 8-fold higher in 10-7 M KAR1 with BA and NAA treatment when compared to the control. To some varying degree, the effect of the tested compounds on the antioxidant activity of the in vitro regenerants was also noticeable. In most cases, there was no direct relationship between the level of phytochemicals and antioxidant activity recorded. The current findings indicate the array of physiological processes influenced by SW and KAR1 during micropropagation. In addition, targeting or manipulation of phytohormone metabolic pathways using CK analogues demonstrated some noteworthy effects. Perhaps, it may offer other potential practical applications in plant biotechnology and agriculture. Thus, more studies such as quantification of endogenous hormones and identification of specific phytochemicals responsible for the bioactivity in this species will provide better insights on the mechanism of action for CK analogues as well as SW and KAR1.


M. Sc. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2014.


Medicinal plants--Micropropagation., Asparagaceae--Micropropagation., Traditional medicine--Micropropagation., Ethnobotany., Theses--Botany.