Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Nanobiotechnology can boost crop production and quality: first evidence from increased plant biomass, fruit yield and phytomedicine content in bitter melon (Momordica charantia)

Chittaranjan Kole14*, Phullara Kole1, K Manoj Randunu2, Poonam Choudhary3, Ramakrishna Podila3, Pu Chun Ke3, Apparao M Rao3 and Richard K Marcus2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Genetics and Biochemistry and Institute of Nutraceutical Research, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, USA

2 Department of Chemistry, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, USA

3 Department of Physics and Astronomy, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, USA

4 Present address: Vice-Chancellor, Bidhan Chandra Krishi (Agricultural) Viswavidyalaya (University), Mohanpur, West Bengal, India

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BMC Biotechnology 2013, 13:37  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-13-37

Published: 26 April 2013



Recent research on nanoparticles in a number of crops has evidenced for enhanced germination and seedling growth, physiological activities including photosynthetic activity and nitrogen metabolism, mRNA expression and protein level, and also positive changes in gene expression indicating their potential use in crop improvement. We used a medicinally rich vegetable crop, bitter melon, as a model to evaluate the effects of seed treatment with a carbon-based nanoparticle, fullerol [C60(OH)20], on yield of plant biomass and fruit characters, and phytomedicine contents in fruits.


We confirmed the uptake, translocation and accumulation of fullerol through bright field imaging and Fourier transform infra-red spectroscopy. We observed varied effects of seed treatment at five concentrations, including non-consequential and positive, on plant biomass yield, fruit yield and its component characters, and content of five phytomedicines in fruits. Fullerol-treatment resulted in increases up to 54% in biomass yield and 24% in water content. Increases of up to 20% in fruit length, 59% in fruit number, and 70% in fruit weight led to an improvement up to 128% in fruit yield. Contents of two anticancer phytomedicines, cucurbitacin-B and lycopene, were enhanced up to 74% and 82%, respectively, and contents of two antidiabetic phytomedicines, charantin and insulin, were augmented up to 20% and 91%, respectively. Non-significant correlation inter se plant biomass, fruit yield, phytomedicine content and water content evidenced for separate genetic control and biosynthetic pathways for production of plant biomass, fruits, and phytomedicines in fruits, and also no impact of increased water uptake.


While our results indicated possibility of improving crop yield and quality by using proper concentrations of fullerol, extreme caution needs to be exercised given emerging knowledge about accumulation and toxicity of nanoparticles in bodily tissues.

Nanoparticles; Fullerol; Bitter melon; Seed treatment; Uptake; Accumulation; Fruit yield; Plant biomass; Phytomedicine content; Water content