PerspectivePlant Science

Plant synthetic biology takes root

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Science  10 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6206, pp. 162-163
DOI: 10.1126/science.1261140

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Summary

The evolution of computers and electronics from bulky room-size devices to the sleek devices of today has relied on a well-honed strategy: Use parts whose behaviors are quantitatively defined and assemble complex systems from simpler modules. Synthetic biology aims to bring this approach to living organisms (1, 2), and it is already starting to happen in plants. A sensor and response system can be designed, sensor proteins programmed in a computer, encoded in a plant, and empowered with such properties as memory and amplification (3). Using genetic information and mathematical analysis allows one to design predictable and quantitative functions in plants, comparable to those of integrated electronic circuits. Just as integrated circuits can be reused in diverse electronic devices, from cell phones to aircraft, synthetic biology components should function predictably in different synthetic circuits and plants.