In an attempt to scale-up of adventitious root cultures of Echinacea angustifolia for the production of biomass and caffeic acid derivatives, i.e. echinacoside, chlorogenic acid, cichoric acid, caftaric acid, and cynarin, the effects of Murashige and Skoog (MS) medium dilutions, and initial sucrose concentrations were investigated in a 5-L airlift bioreactor. In addition, the kinetics of adventitious root growth and accumulation of secondary metabolites were also studied. The greatest root dry weight (6.50 g L−l) and accumulation of total phenolics [22.06 mg g−1 DW (dry weight)], total flavonoids (5.77 mg g−1 DW) and total caffeic acid derivatives (10.63 mg g−1 DW) were obtained at quarter-strength MS medium. Of the various gradients of sucrose tested, 5 % sucrose supplementation was regarded as an optimal concentration for enhancing productivity of biomass and bioactive compounds. Neither higher salt strength (3/4–2 MS) nor sucrose concentrations (7 and 9 %) showed promotive effect on root growth and metabolite production. The kinetic studies revealed that 4 weeks of culture period is the optimal time to achieve highest productivity of metabolites. Based on these results, a large-scale (20 L) and a pilot-scale (500 L) adventitious root culture system was established. In the pilot-scale bioreactor, adventitious roots were elicitor-treated with 100 μM methyl jasmonate (MJ) on day 28. After 1 week of elicitation, 1.75 kg dry root biomass was harvested containing 60.41 mg g−1 DW of total phenolics, 16.45 mg g−1 DW of total flavonoids, and 33.44 mg g−1 DW of total caffeic acid derivatives. Among the caffeic acid derivatives, the accumulation of echinacoside (the major bioactive compound) in MJ-treated adventitious roots grown in the 500-L bioreactor was the highest (12.3 mg g−1 DW), which is approximately threefold more than the non-MJ-treated roots cultured in 5- and 20-L bioreactors.
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