Nicotiana benthamiana

Botanical Name: Nicotiana benthamiana
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Nicotiana
Species:N. benthamiana
Kingdom:Plantae
Order: Solanales

Synonyms: Nicotiana suaveolens var. cordifolia

Common indigenous names: Tjuntiwari and Muntju. Tangungnu, Ngkwerlp-pweter, Pinapitilypa, Tjiknga, Munju, Pirnki-warnu, Turlkamula

Habitat :Nicotiana benthamiana is native to Australia.It is found amongst rocks on hills and cliffs throughout the northern regions of Australia.

Description:
Nicotiana benthamiana is an erect, sometimes sprawling, annual herbaceous plant. This short-lived herb will reach from 0.65-5 feet (0.2-1.5 m) tall. Grown in containers, the plants rarely reach over 18 inches (0.45 m) tall by about half as wide. The dark green, broadly ovate leaves will reach up to 4 inches (10 cm) wide by 5 inches (12.7 cm) long. We selected this plant to use for TMV research because it is very susceptible to all kinds of viruses. Plants are easy to grow and we always keep several different ages of plants available at all times.

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Blooming: In the greenhouse, plants flower all year round, but in nature, they normally bloom from May-September. The small, white flowers are 3/8 inch (1 cm) across by 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) long.

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A vigorous plant with numerous erect leafy stems. Its alternate leaves are broadly egg-shaped, dull green and soft. Except at the top of the stems, where they are stalkless, its leaves have slender stalks. Flowers are whitish, with a long, slender tube and five blunt lobes; fruits are capsules containing many pitted seeds.

This plant is a close relative of tobacco and species of Nicotiana indigenous to Australia.The plant was used by peoples of Australia as a stimulant – it contains nicotine and other alkaloids – before the introduction of commercial tobacco (N.tabacum and N.rustica). It was first collected on the north coast of Australia by Benjamin Bynoe on a voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle in 1837.

Cultivation:
Nicotiana benthamiana need full sun to partial shade using a well-drained soil mix. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 2 parts peat moss to 1 part loam to 1 part coarse sand or perlite. Since we grow these plants for research, they are given water on a daily basis to keep them stress free. They are fertilized weekly with a balanced fertilizer diluted to 1/2 the strength recommended on the label. Since we have to have these plants for research, once they set seed, plants are discarded. During the winter months, we use supplemental lighting to keep the plants growing strong.

Propagation: Nicotiana benthamiana is best propagated from seed.
Medicinal Uses:
The scientists have shown that transgenic versions of a plant Nicotiana benthamiana, also known as ‘Tjuntiwari’ in the native language, may be able to produce large quantities of a protein griffithsin which can be used as an anti-HIV microbicide gel.The protein has shown capabilities of neutralizing HIV as it binds to the virus molecule in such a way that the virus could not disguise itself from the immune system of humans.

Anti-HIV microbicide gel directly targets entry of the virus and averts infection at the surfaces but at present they are being produced using biologicals like bacteria E.coli, an expensive process which is not cost-effective.

The researchers from USA and UK altered the genetic nature of the plant using a tobacco mosaic virus which produced the protein griffithsin.(Published in The Times Of India)

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicotiana_benthamiana
http://www.plantoftheweek.org/week425.shtml
http://biolinfo.org/cmkb/view.php?comname=cmkb_public&scid=412

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