The use of carbon nanodots as a new method of genetic modification and gene editing in crop plants

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science (MSc)


Current trends in food production estimate we will need to massively increase agricultural yields by 2050 to meet demands. Attempts are being made to increase crop productivity via genetic modification (GM) and gene editing (GE), although GM has proved challenging as many species are difficult, if not impossible, to GM with current methods.
To improve GM and GE alternative methods are being sought, and an area of interest is nanoparticles. Carbon-based nanoparticles, including carbon nanotubes, appeared to be effective in delivering genetic material, but could also result in tissue damage.
This work examines carbon nanodots (CNDs) as a method for GM and GE. This cost-effective, simple method was applied in various ways to the model plant species, Arabidopsis thaliana, and to a crop species, Triticum aestivum, to determine how effective for GM and GE this method is in a common crop plant.
CNDs were readily transported into plant tissues and appeared to travel via vascular tissues throughout the plant. CNDs conjugated with DNA based on electrostatic interactions and transported DNA it into cells, resulting in transient transformation. Foliar sprays were found to be the most effective method of application, with a higher average percentage of transformed cells in both plant species. GE did occur from CND treatment with a Spo11/GFP plasmid, with the CND GE methods being the first instance of spray on gene editing in Triticum aestivum. Stable transformation was not achieved, although future work may overcome this obstacle.
Date of Award23 Jan 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorKeith J Edwards (Supervisor) & Heather M Whitney (Supervisor)


  • nanoparticles
  • gmo
  • Triticum aestivum
  • Arabidopsis
  • gfp
  • Gene editing
  • carbon nanodots

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