Review: Synthetic botany

As photosynthetic autotrophs, plants have the potential to convert sunlight into a vast array of useful products: to act as little green metabolic factories. Of course, they already provide us with everything from carbohydrates and vitamins to stimulants and medicinal compounds, but with a few small tweaks they can do so much more. Boehm et al. summarize the potential and challenges of Synthetic Botany. Their perspective spans the approaches needed to edit plant genomes (nuclear and plastid), as well as the benefits of compartmentalized metabolism. The authors observe that to be successful, synthetic botany requires the adoption of engineering principles including standardized parts and cycles of design, building and testing. They conclude by describing the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha as an excellent model, intermediate in scale and complexity between microbes and angiosperms. Cold Spring Harb. Perspect.  10.1101/cshperspect.a023887