News Release

Pioneering the future: An innovative approach to plant synthetic genomics

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Nanjing Agricultural University The Academy of Science

Fig. 1


Comparison of genome size and other properties of existing and potential model species for synthetic genomics.

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Credit: BioDesign Research

In October 2023, BioDesign Research published a perspective article entitled by "Toward Synthetic Genomics in Plants". Focusing on the emerging field of plant synthetic genomics, this study delves into the complexity of assembling and engineering large genomes, a task made challenging by the abundance of transposons and complex epigenetic regulations in multicellular eukaryotes.

Using the model moss Physcomitrium patens as a start, this article proposes a new bottom-up approach to genome synthesis in multicellular plants. This moss is an ideal candidate due to its capabilities for homologous recombination, DNA delivery, and regeneration, setting a precedent for future optimizations in more complex seed plants. Addressing technical hurdles, the article discusses challenges such as genome assembly and plant transformation. It also provides insights into the intricacies of DNA synthesis, citing the successful engineering of viral, bacterial, and yeast genomes using bottom-up approaches and examining the potential for applying these techniques to more complex organisms. The study emphasizes the top-down approach traditionally used in plant synthetic genomics and highlights recent breakthroughs as well as limitations that must be overcome for wider application. It also underscores the importance of overcoming challenges related to chromosome assembly, functional centromere establishment, efficient transformation and regeneration in seed plants. Concluding with an optimistic outlook, the article suggests that plants, due to their unique characteristics and ethical considerations, are likely to be at the forefront of pioneers of genome synthesis in multicellular organisms. The experience and knowledge gained from C. glauca will be invaluable in applying these techniques to seed plants, including crops.

In summary, this article opens a new door in the field of synthetic biology and offers promising avenues for future biotechnological breakthroughs and deeper understanding of plant genomics.




Yuling  Jiao1,2,3* and Ying  Wang4*


1State  Key  Laboratory  of  Protein  and  Plant  Gene  Research,  School  of  Life  Sciences,  Peking  University,  Beijing  100871,  China.  

2Peking-Tsinghua  Center  for  Life  Sciences,  Center  for  Quantitative  Biology,  Academy  for  Advanced  Interdisciplinary  Studies,  Peking  University,  Beijing  100871,  China.  

3Peking University  Institute  of  Advanced  Agricultural  Sciences,  Shandong  Laboratory  of  Advanced  Agricultural  Sciences in Weifang, Weifang, Shandong 261325, China.

4College of Life Sciences, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China.

About Yuling Jiao

He is a professor in the School of Life Sciences at Peking University. His lab combines multidisciplinary approaches to study plant development, in particular shoot lateral appendage formation and patterning. In combination with mathematical simulation, they study the 3D form acquisition of leaves, the primary aerial organ. In addition, they study how a stem cell lineage is maintained in the leaf axil to enable shoot branching. More recently, the lab has spearheaded plant synthetic genomics research, and aims at establishing the first synthetic plant chromosome.

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