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Create GLOWING PLANTS using synthetic biology and Genome Compiler's software - the first step in creating sustainable natural lighting
Create GLOWING PLANTS using synthetic biology and Genome Compiler's software - the first step in creating sustainable natural lighting
8,433 backers pledged $484,013 to help bring this project to life.

Glowing Plant September backer update

Posted by Antony Evans (Creator)

Hello Backers,

In this months update we've got some information on the progress with the autoluminescent glowing plant, some information on the start of our attempts to make glowing moss, an educational video explaining homologous recombination, update on the fragrant moss, and a promo code for synbiobeta where we will making our first public demonstration of the fragrant moss.

Glowing Plant 

In continuation of the effort, we are still in the process of screening and regenerating tobacco tissue bombarded with our full construct. We are still lacking a plant with all six genes but now have many lines with three to five genes. As we explained in our last update, we are going to compliment these lines with a line that contains the missing genes. All of our lines are missing luxC thus, we started work on creating a transgenic tobacco line by inserting a DNA piece containing the luxC cassette. Bombardments have been initiated and screening and regeneration of these lines are in progress. 

Plants derived from this screen will be crossed with the previous lines to complement the missing genes. This seems like an extra step, however, remember we are using a new selectable marker cassette which does not need to be crossed out: Overall, the number of generations the plants have to go through to get the final shipable seeds remain the same.  

Glowing moss

Probably, you all are aware of our Fragrant Moss and that we've started work on a Glowing Moss in case the tobacco plant doesn't work out as we want it to.  Our first attempt is a basic demonstration using the Firefly luciferase cassette, as we did previously in tobocco. In parallel to the proof of principle, we are working on creating different versions of constructs containing the six autoluminescence genes. Some of you might wonder why we should make new constructs when we have the working one for plants. There are couple of reasons:

  • First of all, the dicot promoters do not perform well in moss. For our autoluminescent plant, we are using endogenous promoters from Arabidopsis. However, researchers have shown that the performance of these promoters are minimal in moss. In order to achieve a strong constitutive expression of the pathway, we need to use strong promoters from monocots such as corn or rice that are known to perform well in moss. 
  • Another reason is based on the fact that moss transformation uses a different mechanism from plants. While we force the insertion of exogenous DNA into plants using biolistic methods, moss uses a system called homologous recombination. Detailed explanation by James can be found in this video below. As we only have a couple of known strong promoters in moss, the way to create a six gene construct requires repetitive use of these promoters. Currently, we are not sure how the repetitive elements will affect the transformation process. In order to overcome any difficulties the repeats provide, we are in the process of designing various ways of introducing the DNA pieces into the moss genome. More information will follow in future updates.

What is homologous recombination?

One of the unique features of the strain of moss we are engineering is that it can do something called homologous recombination. This is a specific mechanism for how DNA interacts within the cell, typically found in prokaryotic cells rather than eukaryotic cells, which is explained by James in this video (sorry for sound quality, use the subtitles if you can't hear properly):

Update on fragrant moss

We are ramping up production of the Hygromycin resistance-free fragrant moss line which is the version we plan to sell and distribute to keep funding the glowing plant research. After some initial problems with a fungus infection in August we've cracked the process for scaling up and manufacturing larger amounts of the moss. Currently we can double or triple the amount of moss we have every two weeks. 

We are also testing various growth conditions for moss that will enable it to grow faster, and experimenting with ways to track growth of the moss on agar plates. For instance, we plan to buy a tissue homogenizer that will allow us to more efficiently break apart clumps of moss to spread on several different plates, enabling faster propagation and a shorter doubling time.

Looking forwards, we have a list of ten candidate scents to engineer in moss in the future. We will also be starting to sell and distribute the moss once we have enough to ship in volume. We are still finalizing the plan for exactly how we are going to do that.

Synbiobeta + demo of Fragrant Moss

We are excited to announce that we will be demoing the fragrant moss at the Synbiobeta conference in San Francisco on October 4th and 5th. It was at Synbiobeta last year that we met our Danish collaborators on the moss, so it's appropriate that it's the first location for a public demo. Glowing Plant backers can receive 20% off the registration price if you book before the end of September: just use this link: and promo code SBBPARTNER20.

Hope to meet you at Synbiobeta, otherwise we'll be in touch with the next update.

The Glowing Plant team

Greg Porter, Ed Kowalczewski, and 18 more people like this update.


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    1. Nicolas Megelas on

      Yeah, guys, any updates on when you'll be shipping the plants? If not I'd like a refund. Thanks

    2. Garrett McCown on

      Learning something new every time . keep up the good work.

    3. Missing avatar

      Askar Aryngazin on

      Hi, Evans,

      Great job!! Historical attempt in biohacking! But please refund $80., PayPal.

    4. Antony Evans Creator on

      John: Crispr is a method for targeted edits, you still have to get the DNA into the cell using bombardment or another method. Crispr also isn't so helpful for what we are trying to do which is insert a really large new DNA sequence, our sequence is approx. 20,000 base pair whereas normally with Crispr you are just changing a handful of basepairs. Our main issue currently is getting that much DNA into the cell, not something Crispr would help with.

    5. Missing avatar

      John E on

      Why still doing gene bombardment? Isn't Crispr a better tool?

    6. Kerry on

      A very cool project, and something I think no one has ever attempted before. You guys are doing awesome work, and you're adding tons of knowledge and innovation, which I'm proud to be a part of even if the rewards don't work out. Keep going and good luck! :)

    7. Missing avatar

      Disillusioned Backer on

      I've given up. This is quite frankly all just pretty words.

      Return. The. Money.

    8. Antony Evans Creator on

      DerGullen: Yes it does make it way easier. Once the external DNA is inserted into a haploid cell, then selected, the engineering is done. No need for extra generations as in plants.

    9. Antony Evans Creator on

      Rachael: we are still working on the plant, at this stage given all the challenges and delays we've faced I don't think we can make a 100% guarantee but we are still optimistic we'll eventually get there. In the event we decide the plant is never going to work or it looks like we are running out of funds we'll figure out what the right replacement reward is to the best of our ability, most likely we'll ship the fragrant moss to folks in that instance.

    10. rachael weiss on

      Am I ever going to get the backer reward I supported you for-an actual glowing plant?

    11. Missing avatar

      DerGullen on

      Does having a relatively large haploid generation in plants like mosses and ferns make the engineering any easier?

    12. Michael Valera on

      Yay i'm excited to see an update :) You guys rock, reading these updates about the project makes me feel way smarter than i actually am lol.