RESEARCH

Synthetic genetic circuits in plants

Synthetic genetic circuits are powerful tools for reprogramming the behavior of living organisms. We are developing synthetic genetic circuits to control gene expression in plants. We are leveraging these circuits to modify the spatiotemporal patterns of gene expression in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. The resulting synthetic circuits are then applied to change the plant's growth and behavior.

Controlling form to probe function

Structural features of a plant contribute to its ability to survive in challenging environments. For example, the size and shape of a plant’s root system influences its ability to reach essential nutrients in the soil or to acquire water during drought. Yet, our understanding of the mechanisms by which form influences function remain limited. We using synthetic gene circuits to modify the size and shape of plant roots, shoots, and leaves and testing the modified plants for improved environmental stress tolerance. A better understanding of the plant features that are important for environmental stress tolerance would enable targeted breeding and biotechnological interventions that strengthen our agricultural systems.

Engineered soil bacteria

Plants do not grow in isolation. Much like human microbiota, the bacteria that live in and around plants affect their health. We are developing tools that enable the engineering of undomesticated soil bacteria and are applying them to create designer probiotics that enhance plant growth in challenging environments.