PS Seminar Series - Harnessing synthetic gene circuits for customized gene expression patterns

Abstract: Plant carbon fixation, a vital process for capturing energy, profoundly influences various aspects of our lives, including food, clothing fibers, medicines, building materials, and even the production of human therapeutics. However, current plant biotechnology relies on a limited repertoire of genetic parts, restricting the customization of spatiotemporal and conditional gene expression patterns. Synthetic gene circuits have the potential to integrate multiple customizable input signals through a processing unit constructed from biological parts to produce a predictable and programmable output. Presented here is a suite of recombinase-based gene circuits to achieve activation of transgenes in YES, OR and AND gates, repression in NOT, NOR and NAND gates, and both activation and pression in an A NIMPLY B gate. This work demonstrates the successful manipulation of plant gene expression, both in isolated cells and stably transformed multicellular plants, by utilizing specific developmental cues to trigger activation. This highly compact programmable gene circuit platform provides new capabilities for engineering sophisticated transcriptional programs and previously unrealized traits into plants for agriculture on earth and beyond.

Biography: A geneticist interested in synthetic biology, RNA biology and epigenetics. Since 2018, I have been a Research Associate at the University of Western Australia, working with Prof Ryan Lister creating gene circuits for plants.

Starting in 2005, I studied Genetics (with a year in industry) at the University of York (UK) where I worked in the group of Prof Dame Ottoline Leyser FRS DBE for my final year research project exploring the genetic basis of shoot architecture. My year in Industry was at Advanced Technologies Cambridge working on plant genetic engineering. In 2009 I won a Sainsbury Studentship in Plant Sciences to fund my PhD with Prof Brendan Davies at the University of Leeds (UK) working on nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) in plants. In 2014 I became a post-doc at the University of California, Berkeley (USA), initially working with Prof Daniel Zilberman and Prof Steven Brenner on splicing before continuing at Berkeley as part of the Center for RNA Systems Biology working on splicing and NMD.



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