Protein-based nanoparticles as bioengineered platforms for pesticide delivery

I. González-Gamboa and N. Steinmetz
University of California San Diego,
United States

Keywords: nanoparticles, pesticide


One of the biggest challenges faced by agriculture is the need for effective pest control. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), we lose between 20-40% of global crop production due to pests, with plant parasitic nematodes alone causing a $157 billion loss each year worldwide. Commonly, pesticides are the basis for defending against these threats. However, current methods for pesticide delivery are ineffective, not targeted, and present an environmental and health hazard, with as little as 1% of the pesticide actually staying in contact with the plant, while the rest runs off. Therefore, we must come up with smart solutions and apply modern tools towards repurposing biology and nanotechnologies toward efficient pesticide delivery. Our approach consists of pesticide delivery using degradable protein based nanoparticles, namely Tobacco mild green mosaic virus (TMGMV) a type member of the plant virus tobamovirus group, as a nanotechnology platform for the delivery of active ingredients. TMGMV is a 300 x 18 mm rod shaped virus and it is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a herbicide. We have demonstrated the benefits of using proteinaceous nanoparticles to deliver large payloads of active ingredients and developed inactivation methods to render TMGMV non-infectious and safe without affecting its nanocarrier properties. Our technology aims to enhance the agrochemical efficacy, reduce the indiscriminate use, and ensure the safe application of pesticides. The high aspect ratio shape along with the zwitterionic nature of the protein capsid render TMGMV a suitable platform for pesticide delivery and precision farming, due to its innate soil mobility aptitudes, biosafety and high loading capacity. The authors acknowledge the support from USDA NIFA-2020-67021-31255 and NSF MRSEC at UCSD (DMR-2011924).