In electronics, even the most advanced computer is just a complex arrangement of simple, modular parts that control specific functions; the same integrated circuit might be found in an iPhone, or in an aircraft. Colorado State University scientists are creating this same modularity in – wait for it – plants, by designing gene “circuits” that control specific plant characteristics – color, size, resistance to drought, you name it.
The relatively new, interdisciplinary field is synthetic biology – the design of genetic circuits, just like in electronics, that control different functions and can be easily placed in one organism or the next. Most of today’s synthetic biologists work with simple microorganisms, like E. coli or yeast.
Tackling plant complexity
A CSU team led by June Medford, professor of biology, and Ashok Prasad, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, is doing the same thing, but in the much more complex biological world of plants.
Traditional plant genetic engineering involves inserting or modifying genes that control certain characteristics. Today’s plant synthetic biologists are taking a different approach.
“We are quantitatively analyzing the gene parts so we can make predictable functions,” Medford said. Using the cell phone analogy, “Apple didn’t go and reinvent a circuit to build the new iPhone; they took an existing circuit and tweaked it,” she said. “Once you have the quantification, and the device physics of the parts characterized, you can use a computer to tell you how to put them together.”
Plants in particular pose a special problem, Prasad added. “Not only is the biology much more complicated than single-celled microorganisms, they are also slow to grow and develop. As a consequence, just testing different genetic circuits becomes a major undertaking.”
Hundreds of circuits at a time
Tackling this problem, they’ve invented a method of characterizing not one or two, but hundreds of genetic circuits at a time that control plant functions. They first had to create a blueprint for part construction – the cell parts that make up the eventual circuits. For the testing, they used protoplasts, which are plant cells whose walls have been removed, so they’re little blobs of cytoplasm.
The researchers’ new method, published in Nature Methods Nov. 16, will pave the way to develop and screen hundreds of genetic circuits, opening the door for rapid new developments in plant synthetic biology.
Protoplasts are delicate, though, so the engineers employed mathematical modeling that accounted for all the special properties of each protoplast. Carrying out intensive data analysis and simulations led them to isolate properties of single protoplasts – a major achievement.
They demonstrated their method with the plant Arabidopsis, with later validation in the food grain species Sorghum bicolor – demonstrating their technique with a commercially relevant species.
The Latest on: Genetic circuits
via Google News
The Latest on: Genetic circuits
- Married moms ask SCOTUS to reject birth certificate caseon November 25, 2020 at 9:19 am
The married lesbian couples who successfully challenged Indiana’s prohibition on listing both women as parents on their children’s birth certificates have filed their brief with the U.S. Supreme Court ...
- Network modelling reveals a potential new Alzheimer’s therapyon November 25, 2020 at 4:18 am
Researchers use integrative network biology analysis to identify the molecular mechanisms driving late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD).
- 1st drug for rare rapid-aging disease extends kids’ liveson November 20, 2020 at 2:46 pm
The first drug was approved Friday for a rare genetic disorder that stunts growth and causes rapid aging in children, after studies showed it can extend their lives. Kids with the genetic disorder ...
- Health experts fear South Australia's extreme 'circuit breaker' lockdown may not workon November 18, 2020 at 5:13 pm
We've been able to link this genomically, which is looking at the genetic material and we know exactly where ... harshest lockdowns for six days starting 11.59pm on Wednesday as a 'circuit-breaker' to ...
- South Australia announces 'circuit breaker' lockdown in race to contain sudden COVID-19 clusteron November 18, 2020 at 4:35 am
SYDNEY: The state of South Australia on Wednesday (Nov 18) announced a six-day "circuit breaker" lockdown from midnight, as authorities raced to ...
- Scientists Describe the Genetic Program Underpinning Binocular Visionon November 16, 2020 at 8:20 am
A group of researchers from the Institute of Neurosciences UMH-CSIC, in Alicante, led by Dr. Eloísa Herrera, has discovered a genetic program essential for the formation of bilateral circuits, such as ...
- Researchers identify the genetic program that allows us to see in 3-Don November 13, 2020 at 11:01 am
A group of researchers from the Institute of Neurosciences UMH-CSIC, in Alicante, led by Dr. Eloísa Herrera, has discovered a genetic program essential for the formation of bilateral circuits ...
- Study: Optogenetic stimulation of circuit improves symptomatology of Huntington's diseaseon November 10, 2020 at 10:19 pm
To study the function of this circuit, researchers used optogenetics, a powerful and innovative technique that combines genetic and optic methods to boost selectively brain circuits through light.
- Context dependence of biological circuits: Predictive models and engineering solutionson November 10, 2020 at 4:00 pm
Example devices will be introduced for both bacterial and mammalian genetic circuits. These solutions support rational and modular design of sophisticated genetic circuits and can serve for ...
via Bing News