Productive synergies between green and red synthetic biology for the de novo design of genetic systems

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Sabrina Wend, Michael M. Kämpf, Alexander Dovzhenko, Wilfried Weber, Matias D. Zurbriggen

University of Freiburg, Germany

We follow a pioneering synergistic research line at the cross-section between plant and mammalian synthetic biology aimed at developing a wide array of building blocks necessary for the design, construction and further assembly of the resulting modules into synthetic signalling networks and biosensors. This integrative approach allows for the study of plant metabolisms and signalling pathways in an orthogonal system preventing undesirable crosstalk with endogenous components. For instance, plant-light signalling pathways were partially reconstituted in mammalian cells shedding light into key functional aspects of the systems. Moreover, we also successfully applied this principle to the development of plant metabolite biosensors that were further used to study plant biomolecular circuits and pathways. In addition, we have used plant molecular tools for the construction of orthogonal modules with novel capabilities. Based on this platform we engineered optogenetic and chemical switches for the de novo design of signalling networks to control gene expression, metabolism and development in mammalian cell systems. In particular, we further seek to integrate green and red synthetic biology approaches with a focus on valorising results on fundamental research to the de novo design of genetic systems and robust metabolisms with novel functionalities and biotechnological applications.