Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Nanoparticle penetration and transport in living pumpkin plants: in situ subcellular identification

Eduardo Corredor15, Pilar S Testillano1, María-José Coronado1, Pablo González-Melendi16, Rodrigo Fernández-Pacheco2, Clara Marquina3, M Ricardo Ibarra23, Jesús M de la Fuente2, Diego Rubiales4, Alejandro Pérez-de-Luque4 and María-Carmen Risueño1*

Author Affiliations

1 Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas, (CIB) CSIC, Ramiro de Maeztu 9, E-28040, Madrid, Spain

2 Instituto de Nanociencia de Aragón, Universidad de Zaragoza, Edificio Interfacultativo II, Pedro Cerbuna 12, 50009, Zaragoza, Spain

3 Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Aragón (ICMA)Departamento de Física de la Materia Condensada, CSIC-Universidad de Zaragoza Pedro Cerbuna 12, 50009, Zaragoza, Spain

4 Instituto de Agricultura Sostenible, CSIC, Alameda del Obispo s/n, Apdo, 4084, E-14080, Córdoba, Spain

5 School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, B15 2TT Birmingham, UK

6 Centro de Biotecnología y Genómica de Plantas, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, ETS Ingenieros Agrónomos, Ciudad Universitaria s/n, 28040, Madrid, Spain

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BMC Plant Biology 2009, 9:45  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-9-45

Published: 23 April 2009



In recent years, the application of nanotechnology in several fields of bioscience and biomedicine has been studied. The use of nanoparticles for the targeted delivery of substances has been given special attention and is of particular interest in the treatment of plant diseases. In this work both the penetration and the movement of iron-carbon nanoparticles in plant cells have been analyzed in living plants of Cucurbita pepo.


The nanoparticles were applied in planta using two different application methods, injection and spraying, and magnets were used to retain the particles in movement in specific areas of the plant. The main experimental approach, using correlative light and electron microscopy provided evidence of intracellular localization of nanoparticles and their displacement from the application point. Long range movement of the particles through the plant body was also detected, particles having been found near the magnets used to immobilize and concentrate them. Furthermore, cell response to the nanoparticle presence was detected.


Nanoparticles were capable of penetrating living plant tissues and migrating to different regions of the plant, although movements over short distances seemed to be favoured. These findings show that the use of carbon coated magnetic particles for directed delivery of substances into plant cells is a feasible application.