Recent Posts

Review: The impact of synthetic biology for future agriculture and nutrition

The synthetic biology field is going to be important for the decade we began in order to face climate challenges, including food security. However, plant synthetic biology lags behind bacterial and other eukaryotic systems. Roell and Zurbriggen summarize in this review, many of the projects that are…

Special Current Opinion in Biotechnology issue Issue: Plant Biotechnology

Since most of us will have a few days off this coming week as we welcome in 2020, I’d like to highlight some of the engrossing reviews in this special issue of Current Opinion in Biotechnology, edited by Ralf Reski, Gary Foster & Ed Rybicki.  Several of the articles focus on Molecular Pharming,…

Control of nitrogen fixation in bacteria that associate with cereals (Nature Microbiol)

Legumes benefit from mutualistic symbioses with Rhizobia bacteria, which are induced to fix nitrogen when inside of the nodules produced by the plant. Cereals also associate with Rhizobia, but without nodules they don’t fix nitrogen. Ryu et al. set out to engineer inducible nitrogenase activity in…

Conversion of Escherichia coli to generate all biomass carbon from CO2 (Cell)

Plants are photosynthetic autotrophs, meaning they use light energy to feed themselves, with carbon dioxide as a carbon source. Heterotrophs like E. coli require organic carbon. Here, Gleizer et al. have rewired the metabolism of E. coli to make it into a (non-photosynthetic) autotroph, meaning it can…

Review: Design and engineering of advanced plant optogenetics systems (TIPS)

Review: Design and engineering of advanced plant optogenetics systems Optogenetics uses light-sensitive proteins to trigger specific outputs in the cell in response to particular wavelengths of light. Many optogenetic systems use chimeric proteins that contain different sensor and effector…

Biosynthesis of the nitrogenase active-site cofactor precursor NifB-co in Saccharomyces cerevisiae (PNAS)

Nitrogenases are large, multisubunit enzymes that require complex metal cofactors. They are the only enzymes capable of fixing N2 into usable form, and are only produced by some archaea and bacteria; “nitrogen-fixing” legumes actually depend on the presence of their bacterial symbionts for this function.…

Perspective: Revolutionizing agriculture with synthetic biology (Nature Plants)

In a new Perspective by Wurtzel et al., the authors lay out SynBio’s tremendous potential to transform agriculture. Consider how we might leverage the “vast design space that plants have not occupied.” As an example, plants employ two pathways to fix carbon, and prokaryotes another six, but scientists…

Deep conservation of cis-element variants regulating plant hormonal responses (Plant Cell)

Promoter regions upstream of transcription start sites contain DNA regulatory elements (RE) crucial for the transcriptional control of gene expression. However, REs are short degenerated sequences with low conservation during evolution. In this paper, Lieverman-Lazarovich et al. studied REs in core hormone…

Interviews with Synthetic Biologists: Sunil Chandran, Amyris

Synthetic biology is a set of tools, a way of thinking, the integration of engineering principles into biological sciences, and potentially the biggest opportunity for advances in plant sciences since PCR. Yet many struggle to define it, and fewer still grasp its full potential. In August 2019, a Plant…