Recent Posts

Synthetic hormone-responsive transcription factors can monitor and re-program plant development (eLIFE)

Khakhar et al. have developed a system by which genes can be made exquisitely responsive to specific hormones. They take advantage of the specificity of the guide DNA/Cas9 system, but use a deactivated (dCas9) enzyme that targets but does not cleave the target DNA. By fusing dCAS9 to a hormone-responsive…

Missing enzymes in the biosynthesis of the anticancer drug vinblastine in Madagascar periwinkle ($) (Science)

Plants make some amazing biologically active natural products, many with impressive applications such as vinblastine, a product of Catharantus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle). Caputi et al. identified key enzymes in vinblastine synthesis, opening the door for its production in alternative systems and…

MicroProteins as the First Step toward a Master Key for Posttranslational Regulation

Determining the function of a gene often relies on transgenic plants with altered transcriptional or translational levels. This is usually achieved through overexpression, knockout, or knockdown. However, each of these approaches has specific advantages and drawbacks. For instance, knockouts, which…

Loop Assembly: a simple and open system for recursive fabrication of DNA circuits (bioRxiv)

Ambitious plant synthetic biology projects are driving the evolution of advanced DNA assembly techniques that permit efficient and rapid assembly of multiple transcriptional units (TUs). Pollack et al. have incorporated features of individual techniques into a single “general purpose DNA assembly…

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…

Review: Synthetic biology approaches for the production of plant metabolites in unicellular organisms ($)

The excellent review by Moses et al. starts by defining the oft-confused terms  metabolite engineering and systems biology. Although systems biology can contribute to the former, it is distinguished by the use of “defined ‘parts’ that are easily combined and exchanged, using standardized workflows…

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…

Rewiring carotenoid biosynthesis in plants using a viral vector

A healthy human diet should include phytonutrients such as carotenoids. Several approaches including classical breeding and transgenic plant production have been used to increase carotenoid abundance in plant tissues; challenges to these approaches include feedback controls, cell toxicity due to abnormally…

MarpoDB: An open registry for Marchantia polymorpha genetic parts

Marchantia polymorpha (a liverwort) is a living relative of the earliest terrestrial plants. As it has a simple genome and morphology and is readily transformable, it provides a good platform for synthetic biology (see https://www.openplant.org/marchantia/). Delmans et al. have designed an “engineering-oriented”…