Recent Posts

A rationally designed JAZ subtype-selective agonist of jasmonate perception (Nature Comms.)

Many plant hormones have pleiotropic effects, switching on and off multiple, seemingly unrelated processes. As an example, jasmonates both turn on herbivore defense responses and suppress growth. Takaoka et al. have elegantly separated these, by developing a jasmonate mimic that only activates defences.…

Perspective: The multiplanetary future of plant synthetic biology

The exploration of space is one of the most inspiring areas of scientific research and a major driver of technological innovation. One of the major factors limiting human expansion trough space is the immensely high cost of resupplying resources from Earth. Mars is the closest neighbor to Earth and although…

Paint the tobacco red: Anthocyanin production in tobacco cells lines

Anthocyanins are common plant pigments that provide dietary benefits, causing an increase in their use as a food coloring agents. However, purifying anthocyanins from current plant sources (such as waste grape skins, red cabbage and berries) is expensive and creates a variable product. Modifying biosynthetic…

How to grow crops on Mars if we are to live on the red planet

We can create the right kind of food plants to survive on Mars. Shutterstock/SergeyDV Briardo Llorente, Macquarie University Preparations are already underway for missions that will land humans on Mars in a decade or so. But what would people eat if these missions eventually lead to the permanent…

Review: Applying synthetic biology and genetic engineering to photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is a complex process that has the potential to be greatly improved through human modifications. However, these modifications have been limited by two main factors: the high degree of conservation of the components, and the multiprotein complexes that require specifically modified proteins…

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…

Review:  Increasing metabolic potential: C-fixation (Essays Biochem) $

Increasing carbon fixation through the Calvin-Benson-Bassham (CBB) cycle is a viable strategy to boost crop yields, as has been demonstrated through both experimental and modelling approaches.  In this review, Andralojc et al outline the most recent advancements in this research field.  The authors…

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…