Review: Quantitative monitoring and control of plant signalling through novel theoretical–experimental approaches

Samodelov and Zurbriggen describe approaches to exquisitely fine-tune protein and metabolite expression levels through a variety of synthetic and semi-synthetic biology approaches. For example, optigenetics tools enable gene expression to be activated precisely via a light beam; when combined with downstream regulators including miRNAs and inducible protein degradation tags, the gene product can be reliably switched off as well as on. Similarly, the authors review efforts to use synthetic biology to optimize biosensors (transcriptional, degron, or FRET based) that read out spatially resolved and quantitatively sensitive levels of hormones or metabolites, as well as efforts to mathematically model plant processes based on the collected data. One of the outstanding questions raised by the authors is “How can the novel theoretical–experimental concepts of synthetic and quantitative plant biology best be incorporated into teaching curricula to prepare future generations of plant researchers for the challenges ahead?” – this review is a good place to start. Trends Plant Sci. 10.1016/j.tplants.2017.05.006