Although from thousands of years plants are known for their medicinal properties and used for medicinal purposes, Recombinant DNA technology has increased new possibilities to produces pharmaceutical or therapeutic proteins using plants. Molecular farming is the production of recombinant proteins in crop plants. The production of valuable proteins and metabolites for industry or medicines by genetically engineered plants is referred to as Molecular farming. It is possible to produce recombinant protein in the plants, transgene can be introduced through rDNA technology into plants. Thus, plants can be used for the large-scale production of recombinant protein.

In 1990, the first recombinant pharmaceutical protein; human serum albumin revealed in transgenic potato and tobacco plants. Crop plants can synthesize a wide variety of proteins as well as a huge amount of biomass in limited facilities and at a low cost. The potential of protein produced by plants ranges from pharmaceutical products such as plasma proteins, enzymes, hormones, growth factors, vaccines, and recombinant antibodies to biodegradable plastics.

Plant-based expression systems are more significant than classical expression systems based on microbial cells and mammalian cells. Firstly, they have a higher eukaryote protein synthesis pathway, analogous to animal cells with slight differences in protein glycosylation, and secondly, the accumulation of plant-produced protein is high. The protein production of the foreign genes can be increased in plants by optimizing the expression of foreign DNA achieved by using tissue-specific promoters. For the expression and production of the foreign genes in plants, stable nuclear transformation, plastid transformation, transient transformation techniques can be used.

Proteins currently being produced in plants by molecular farming:

  • Pharmaceutical Intermediate includes protein used directly or indirectly in preparing pharmaceuticals such as thrombin, collagen, trypsin, aprotinin, human α-interferon, α-1 antitrypsin, hirudin.
  • Production of industrial protein group includes glycosidase, proteases, and oxidoreductase
  • Edible vaccines are plant-derived vaccines found to be better than commercially available vaccines. Edible vaccines are being tested in potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, and carrots.
  • Monoclonal antibodies –plant-based antibodies in plants had the potential to make large amounts of safe, inexpensive antibodies available.

In the last few years, molecular farming has provided advantages for the production of pharmaceutical and other proteins which include safety, cost-effectiveness, quick adaptability, and absence of the human pathogen. One of the keys to success in the future will be the level of expression, appropriate downstream processing, and purification of products.

Keyboard: recombinant proteins, pharmaceutical, Edible vaccines, plant-based


  1. Horn, M. E., Woodard, S. L., & Howard, J. A. (2004). Plant molecular farming: systems and products. Plant cell reports22(10), 711-720.
  2. Fischer, R., & Emans, N. (2000). Molecular farming of pharmaceutical proteins. Transgenic research9(4), 279-299.
  3. Buyel, J. F. (2019). Plant molecular farming–Integration and exploitation of side streams to achieve sustainable biomanufacturing. Frontiers in plant science9, 1893.
  4. Fischer, R., Liao, Y. C., Hoffmann, K., Schillberg, S., & Emans, N. (1999). Molecular farming of recombinant antibodies in plants.

Shanmugaraj, B., I Bulaon, C. J., & Phoolcharoen, W. (2020). Plant molecular farming: a viable platform for recombinant biopharmaceutical production

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