story to find out more.
Biological science aide Stephanie Moss transfers
cotton hairy roots that will be analyzed for gossypol. Click the image for
more information about it.
Cotton Roots Coaxed into Producing Promising
Compound By Erin
Peabody July 14, 2005
When it comes to cotton, it's usually the plants' soft, downy fibers
that are the focus of Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists. But right now, what's
getting their attention is a powerful compound extracted from the plants'
roots. It has the potential to snuff out costly farm pests and diseases and
perhaps even to guard against human cancers.
Called gossypol, the compound is found throughout the cotton plant, in
its leaves, seeds and stems. However, methods for extracting large quantities
of gossypol from those parts are limited. So ARS plant physiologist
Triplett wondered if she could trick the plants into growing clumps of
prolific hairy roots specially primed to produce gossypol.
What's so attractive about culturing hairy roots is that they can be
conveniently grown in the laboratory to produce valuable compounds throughout
Hairy roots can be started from almost any plant, as long as a
researcher can provide the exact environmental conditions--including
temperature, pH, nutrients and hormones--needed to coax the fine tangles of
roots into culture.
Through much trial and error, Triplett, who works at ARS'
Regional Research Center in New Orleans, La., has discovered an ideal petri
dish environment for growing fist-sized bunches of the gossypol-laden cotton
Her colleague, SRRC chemical engineer
Dowd, confirms that the compound is actually present in the hairy roots and
in the liquid medium surrounding them. He also monitors the quantities produced
and the forms of gossypol appearing most potent.
After being extracted and purified, gossypol is, in its most essential
form, a powder the color of ground mustard. With its only apparent weakness
being sensitivity to sunlight, the intensely yellow compound is showing
impressive antifungal, antibacterial and anticancer effects.
Dowd is providing gossypol samples to researchers from around the
globe who are currently investigating the compound's glowing potential.
about this research in the July issue of Agricultural Research
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.