Recent Posts

Nanoscale movements of cellulose microfibrils in primary cell walls ($)

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Cell walls are complex mixtures of cellulose microfibrils, proteins and other materials. Their mechanical properties can be measured and modeled, but it is not always simple to translate these measurements to changes at the molecular level. Zhang et al. used atomic force microscopy to provide an unprecedented…

Review: The second decade of synthetic biology: 2010–2020 (Nature Comms.)

I guess if this were a normal year, we’d be spending time looking back over the past decade, but Covid-19 has made anything pre-2019 seem like a different lifetime. Still, here’s a retrospective you don’t want to miss. Meng and Ellis take us on a short walk down memory lane through the “second…

An Alternative Route for Astaxanthin Biosynthesis in Green Algae

Tianhu Sun ORCID ID: 0000-0002-2513-1387 Plant Breeding and Genetics Section, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853 ts753@cornell.edu Astaxanthin is the reddish carotenoid pigment that gives color to shrimp, salmon, and flamingo. However, these animals…

Back to the Future for Plant Rubisco Bioengineering

Martin-Avila et al. use synthetic biology to improve photosynthesis in tobacco by swapping out the endogenous small subunits of Rubisco for one coming from potato, among other things. Plant Cell https://doi.org/10.1105/tpc.20.00288 By Spencer Whitney, Elena Martin-Avila, Sally Buck, Timothy Rhodes,…

Mix, Match, and Maize: A Synthetic System for Maize Nuclear Auxin Response Circuits

Dhineshkumar Thiruppathi 1,2  ORCID ID: 0000-0002-2018-3356 Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Saint Louis, Missouri 63132 1Lead author 2Author for contact: dthiruppathi@danforthcenter.org The phytohormone auxin plays a major part in nearly every plant process, including growth…

Modifying plant photosynthesis and growth via simultaneous chloroplast transformation of Rubisco large and small subunits (Plant Cell)

In an interesting evolutionary artifact, the genes encoding the small subunit of Rubisco, rbcS, reside in the nuclear genome, whilst those encoding RbcL persists in the chloroplast. The RbcS protein is translocated into the chloroplast where the holoenzyme forms. This complexity adds to the challenge…

Modulation of gene expression in plants with orthogonal regulatory systems (Nat. Chem. Biol.)

Some of the most promising applications in synthetic biology need precise control of gene expression. For instance, metabolic engineering in plants requires the expression of enzyme-coding genes at a precise time, space, and quantity to ensure correct output. Recently, Belcher, Vuu, and colleagues engineered…

Plant synthetic promoters to fine tune expression of engineered genes (bioRxiv)

Synthetic genetic circuits allow the reconstruction of metabolic pathways in plant systems for production of many natural products including pharmaceuticals. A challenge in genetic engineering these circuits is precisely and predictably regulating gene expression, especially when genes may be desired…

Review: Enzymes as parts in need of replacement – and how to extend their working life (Trends Plant Sci)

The ability of biological systems to self-repair is a huge motivator in all sorts of synthetic biology projects. Taking this cell-as-factory to the next step comes the question of how often do the parts need replacing? Tivendale et al. address this through a discussion of Catalytic Cycles until Replacement…

Review. Beyond natural: Synthetic expansions of botanical form and function (New Phytol.)

“The goal of synthetic biology is to advance the ability to dependably and consistently design or reprogram living organisms and to fabricate products from biologically-derived materials.” In this review, Patron focuses on the principles derived from engineering that are foundational to synthetic…