This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will investigate the feasibility of utilizing a stabilized, cadmium-binding antibody to sequester cadmium in plant trichomes. Heavy metals such as cadmium are ubiquitous contaminants in soil surrounding industrial sites and have great deleterious impacts on human health. A great need exists for a strategy of heavy metal removal and recovery from soil that does not rely on expensive and toxic restoration techniques. The opportunity that PhylloTech will pursue is the modification of a natural process of heavy metal phytoextraction in the genetically-tractable, high-biomass plant Nicotiana tabacum. Our specific technological innovation is the targeted expression of a thermostabile cadmium-binding antibody within the gland cells of leaf surface structures called glandular secreting trichomes, to achieve high levels of cadmium sequestration outside of the main plant body so that plant growth is undeterred. The research objectives will be to generate a stabilized antibody that binds cadmium, drive its expression in trichomes using patented promoters, and investigate if plants are enhanced in their abilities to extract cadmium from growth media. This work will demonstrate that trichomes of N. tabacum could be utilized to enhance cadmium extraction from soil, and will develop a foundation for the large-scale, selective phytoremediation of contaminants from diverse environments.
Cadmium is an industrial contaminant that has great deleterious impacts on human health, and we propose to generate plants that have an enhanced ability to remove cadmium from contaminated soils. This project is therefore relevant to the Hazardous Substances and Remediation Program of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), specifically by our development of phytoremediation technologies through the use of genetic engineering approaches.