Lasers enable modification of living and non-living matter with submicron precision in a contact-free manner which has raised the interest of researchers for decades. Accordingly, laser technologies have drawn interest across disciplines. They have been established as a valuable tool to permeabilize cellular membranes for molecular delivery in a process termed photoinjection. Laser-based molecular delivery was first reported in 1984, when normal kidney cells were successfully transfected with a frequency-multiplied Nd:YAG laser. Due to the rapid development of optical technologies, far more sophisticated laser platforms have become available. In particular, near infrared femtosecond (NIR fs) laser sources enable an increasing progress of laser-based molecular delivery procedures and opened up multiple variations and applications of this technique. This review is intended to provide a plant science audience with the physical principles as well as the application potentials of laser-based molecular delivery. The historical origins and technical development of laser-based molecular delivery are summarized and the principle physical processes involved in these approaches and their implications for practical use are introduced. Successful cases of laser-based molecular delivery in plant science will be reviewed in detail, and the specific hurdles that plant materials pose will be discussed. Finally, we will give an outlook on current limitations and possible future applications of laser-based molecular delivery in the field of plant science.
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