Natural deep eutectic solvents in plants and plant cells: In vitro evidence for their possible functions

Yuntao Dai, Eleni Maria Varypataki, Elena A. Golovina, Wim Jiskoot, Geert Jan Witkamp, Young Hae Choi, Robert Verpoorte

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

14 Scopus citations


The components of natural deep eutectic solvents (NADES) are abundant in plants. This led to our hypothesis that NADES may play an important role in solubilizing, storing, and transporting poorly water-soluble metabolites in living cells, adjusting the water content of plants, and protecting cells when in harsh conditions. In order to test these hypothetical roles, diverse plant materials were analyzed, including leaves, petals, plant secretions and seeds. Comparatively high amounts of ingredients of NADES are observed in those organs. In particular, resurrection plants in dry state contain a higher amount of NADES components than fresh ones, and the level of NADES components is specifically higher in the outside layer (aleurone and seed cover) of barley, than in the inside (endosperm and embryo) layer. A high accumulation of sugars, sugar alcohols, amines, amino acids, and organic acids dominate plant secretions such as sap and nectar, often in typical molar ratios of NADES. This strongly supports the hypothesis of the existence of NADES in plants. For the roles, experimentally, NADES and water were mixed resulting in liquids with different compositions and properties. In the case of plants, NADES and water co-exist in the cells and may form ideal solvents for metabolites of diverse polarities and macromolecules. Some NADES are hygroscopic, providing evidence for possible water level controlling effects of NADES in plants. Most importantly, NADES may accumulate around the lipid bilayers, form intermolecular bonds with the polar heads of lipids, and stabilize the membrane, as revealed in experiments with liposomes. This study gives in vitro evidence for the different roles NADES may play in living organisms, and opens perspectives for further exploring the existence and functions of NADES in plants cells. The omics allows now to identify all molecules in an organism or even in a cell. The challenge for future research will be to understand how there molecules interact in the dynamic cellular processes and their compartmentation on a nanoscale. In other words the challenge is to unravel the molecular interactions in the three dimensions of space and the one of time, which will require a true multidisciplinary collaboration.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Botanical Research
StatePublished - Oct 21 2020


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