Albany 2013: Book of Abstracts

category image Albany 2013
Conversation 18
June 11-15 2013
©Adenine Press (2012)

Development and application of crop exudate specific aptamers

The fertilizer industry is lucrative, though it faces environmental challenges. The amount of nitrogen applied to crops far exceeds the nitrogen utilized by crops, leading to excess nitrogen in the form of nitrates, gaseous ammonia, and nitrogen oxides (DeRossa et al. 2010). This excess nitrogen can spread into groundwater, contaminating drinking water and causing excess algal growth. Developments in nanotechnology may alleviate some of these environmental challenges. Although there are examples of nanotechnology being utilized for fertilizer products, none of these methods are able to respond to the specific nutrient needs of the plant. This project aims to produce a nanofertilizer product that can synchronize the release of its nutrients with the uptake of nutrients by the plant (DeRossa et al. 2010). Aptamers are synthetic molecules of DNA or RNA that can form three dimensional shapes which are capable of strongly and selectively binding a target of interest. Aptamers have been found to have binding affinities similar to, if not surpassing those of monoclonal antibodies (Sultan et al. 2009). The goal of this project is to use polyelectrolyte microcapsules containing aptamers in their walls that are specific for key plant signals. This will allow the delivery of nutrient molecules from inside the microcapsules only when required by the plants.

Root exudate specific aptamers are being developed using SELEX (Systematic Evolution of Ligands through Exponential enrichment) from a random DNA pool, as well as from an existing aptamer pool. These aptamers will act as molecular recognition probes in the development of an intelligent fertilizer system. Progress from these selections will be presented.


    M. C. DeRosa, C. Monreal, M. Schnitzer, R. Walsh, Y. Sultan “Nanotechnology in Fertilizers” Nature Nano. 2010, 5, 91.

    Y. Sultan, R.Walsh, C. Monreal, M. C. DeRosa “Preparation of Functional Aptamer Films by Layer-by-Layer Self-Assembly” Biomacromolecules 2009, 10, 1149-1154

Emily Mastronardi1
Maureen Mckeague2
Carlos Monreal3
Maria DeRosa1

1Department of Chemistry
Carleton University
1125 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1S 5B6
2Department of Bioengineering
Stanford University
473 Via Ortega
Stanford, CA 94305
3Eastern Cereal and Oil Seed Research Centre
Agriculture and AgriFood Canada
960 Carling Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1A 0C6