pp 1–21 | Cite as

Application of genetics and biotechnology for improving medicinal plants

  • Mohsen NiazianEmail author


Main conclusion

Plant tissue culture has been used for conservation, micropropagation, and in planta overproduction of some pharma molecules of medicinal plants. New biotechnology-based breeding methods such as targeted genome editing methods are able to create custom-designed medicinal plants with different secondary metabolite profiles.

For a long time, humans have used medicinal plants for therapeutic purposes and in food and other industries. Classical biotechnology techniques have been exploited in breeding medicinal plants. Now, it is time to apply faster biotechnology-based breeding methods (BBBMs) to these valuable plants. Assessment of the genetic diversity, conservation, proliferation, and overproduction are the main ways by which genetics and biotechnology can help to improve medicinal plants faster. Plant tissue culture (PTC) plays an important role as a platform to apply other BBBMs in medicinal plants. Agrobacterium-mediated gene transformation and artificial polyploidy induction are the main BBBMs that are directly dependent on PTC. Manageable regulation of endogens and/or transferred genes via engineered zinc-finger proteins or transcription activator-like effectors can help targeted manipulation of secondary metabolite pathways in medicinal plants. The next-generation sequencing techniques have great potential to study the genetic diversity of medicinal plants through restriction-site-associated DNA sequencing (RAD-seq) technique and also to identify the genes and enzymes that are involved in the biosynthetic pathway of secondary metabolites through precise transcriptome profiling (RNA-seq). The sequence-specific nucleases of transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), zinc-finger nucleases, and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats-associated (Cas) are the genome editing methods that can produce user-designed medicinal plants. These current targeted genome editing methods are able to manage plant synthetic biology and open new gates to medicinal plants to be introduced into appropriate industries.


Bio-product Biotechnology Genome editing Metabolic engineering Plant synthetic biology Tissue culture 



Centromere-specific histone H3


Combinatorial supertransformation of transplastomic recipient lines


Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats




Double-strand breaks


Genetically modified


Genome-wide association


High-performance liquid chromatography


Next-generation sequencing


Plant tissue culture


Plant growth regulators


Quantitative trait loci


Single-guide RNA


Transcription activator-like effector nucleases


Targeting-induced local lesions in genomes


Zinc-finger nucleases



The author is thankful to Ms. Shokoofeh Nourozi for her kind help in preparing the figures of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Ethical standards

There is no ethical standard related to the present review article.

Supplementary material

425_2019_3099_MOESM1_ESM.docx (41 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 40 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Tissue and Cell CultureAgricultural Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran (ABRII), Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization (AREEO)KarajIran

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