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Sporopollenin, the least known yet toughest natural biopolymer

Mackenzie, Grahame; Boa, Andrew N.; Diego-Taboada, Alberto; Atkin, Stephen L.; Sathyapalan, Thozhukat


Alberto Diego-Taboada

Stephen L. Atkin


© 2015 Mackenzie, Boa, Diego-Taboada, Atkin and Sathyapalan. Sporopollenin is highly cross-linked polymer composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen that is extraordinarily stable and has been found chemically intact in sedimentary rocks some 500 million years old. It makes up the outer shell (exine) of plant spores and pollen and when extracted it is in the form of an empty exine or microcapsule. The exines resemble the spores and pollen from which they are extracted, in size and morphology. Also, from any one plant such characteristics are incredible uniform. The exines can be used as microcapsules or simply as micron-sized particles due to the variety of functional groups on their surfaces. The loading of a material into the chamber of the exine microcapsule is via multi-directional nano-diameter sized channels. The exines can be filled with a variety of polar and non-polar materials. Enzymes can be encapsulated within the shells and still remain active. In vivo studies in humans have shown that an encapsulated active substance can have a substantially increased bioavailability than if it is taken alone. The sporopollenin exine surface possesses phenolic, alkane, alkene, ketone, lactone, and carboxylic acid groups. Therefore, it can be derivatized in a number of ways, which has given rise to applications in areas, such as solid supported for peptide synthesis, catalysis, and ion-exchange chromatography. Also, the presence of the phenolic groups on sporopollenin endows it with antioxidant activity.


Mackenzie, G., Boa, A. N., Diego-Taboada, A., Atkin, S. L., & Sathyapalan, T. (2015). Sporopollenin, the least known yet toughest natural biopolymer. Frontiers in Materials, 2, 1-5.

Journal Article Type Short Survey
Acceptance Date Oct 2, 2015
Online Publication Date Oct 19, 2015
Publication Date Oct 19, 2015
Deposit Date Mar 15, 2016
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Frontiers in Materials
Electronic ISSN 2296-8016
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 2
Article Number UNSP 55
Pages 1-5
Keywords Sporopollenin; Pollen; Spores; Exines; Microcapsules
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Copy of article first published in: Frontiers in materials, 2015, v.2, article 66


Published article (2.5 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2015 Mackenzie, Boa, Diego-Taboada, Atkin and Sathyapalan. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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