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Researchers Reprogram Plant Roots With Synthetic Genetic Circuit Strategy

A Stanford University team presents a plant root reprogramming strategy that relies on synthetic transcriptional regulator-based genetic circuits for a paper in Science. By controlling gene expression in specific root cell types with synthetic DNA delivered with Agrobacterium tumefaciens bacteria, the researchers put together more than 1,000 genetic circuits, including circuits that successfully tweaked root gene expression and related root features in the Nicotiana benthamiana plant model — a strategy that may ultimately help plants respond to environmental stressors such as climate change. The study's authors caution that "[r]eprogramming crops using synthetic genetic circuits will require careful tuning." Even so, they suggest that "methods for programming novel traits in plants will become increasingly useful as climate challenges grown and new agricultural solutions are needed."