Funded! This project was successfully funded on June 7, 2013.

Update #6

How bright can we make our plants grow?

The benchmark for bioluminescense has been set by the 2010 iGem team from the University of Cambridge. Look how bright they were able to make their bacteria glow - even reading by the light:

You can read more about their project here: http://2010.igem.org/Team:Cambridge

We see no theoretical reason why we can't get plants to glow as well as this in time. As George Church, Head of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, say's in the video we shared yesterday "to me it is paradoxical that we don't have glowing fireflies and glowing everything that glows brighter than a flashlight. Biology is very energy efficient and energy packets are more dense than batteries"

So here's the science behind how to plan to make a plant which glows more than the SUNY researcher's plant. There are four key activities we will work on:

1. Codon optimization: There are 64 different codons (61 codons encoding for amino acids plus 3 stop codons) but only 20 different translated amino acids. The overabundance in the number of codons allows many amino acids to be encoded by more than one codon. Different creatures, eg bacteria vs plants, use different codons in different frequencies to code for the same proteins. One of our first goals will therefore be to adjust the bacterial designs to match the codon structure of a plant - this will boost the production of the proteins we want the plant to express.

2. Promoter selection: When a plant is reading the DNA it uses promoters to decide when to produce a protein. This is the mechanism by which a root cell knows to produce different proteins than a petal. Some promoters are active only at night, some respond to external stimulae and some respond to different aged plants. There's even one which responds when a plant is cut meaning you could cut a leaf and have the plant glow along the incision, pretty cool! We have a long list of promoters to try and will try them in different combinations (eg should we make luciferin all the time and luciferase only at night... or both only at night?)

3. Metabolic engineering: What is the bottleneck of light production? Is it one of the enzymes that makes luciferin? Is it luciferase? Is it oxygen? Is it recycling of luciferin? Once we have a first glowing plant we will do experiments (eg manually add luciferin) to analyse which factors make the plant glow more, then we can boost that bottleneck to increase the overall reaction.

4. Gene copy numbers: Copy-number variations - a form of structural variation - are alterations of the DNA of a genome that results in the cell having an abnormal number of copies of one or more sections of the DNA. CNVs correspond to relatively large regions of the genome that have been deleted (fewer than the normal number) or duplicated (more than the normal number) on certain chromosomes. By experimenting with different copy numbers we can find a combination which optimizes the light production.

We hope that wasn't too technical let us know if you have any questions.

Kyle, Omri and Antony

Comments

    1. Glowingplant.small

      Creator Matthew N Kupka on May 2, 2013

      @Kavan: Yes, it is. But it would sacrifice some of the brightness, which is why they are sticking to only a blueish green glow.

    2. Glowingplant.small

      Creator Matthew N Kupka on May 2, 2013

      They are also prototyping with agrobacteria.

    3. Glowingplant.small

      Creator Matthew N Kupka on May 2, 2013

      @James: Not sure exactly what it is, but they call it a DNA gun.

    4. Jamesblaha.small

      Creator James Blaha on May 2, 2013

      What method are you using to get the synthetic DNA into the plant?

    5. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Kavan Koh on May 2, 2013

      Is it possible to control the colour of the glow?

    6. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Kavan Koh on May 2, 2013

      Add a switch to dim or off the glow too.

    7. Glowing_plant.small

      Creator Antony Evans on May 1, 2013

      Michael: Short answer is yes. We will be using signal peptides to direct proteins to compartments (i.e. the chloroplast, etc.).

      Since scientists still have a LOT to learn about metabolic engineering, the best approach will most likely include a 'selective breeding' or 'directed evolution' component.

      This is also one reason for being open source and distributing the seeds. We want to empower people to pursue their own ideas - there are too many ideas for us to test by ourselves!

    8. Missing_small

      Creator Will on May 1, 2013

      I agree with James, the more technical details the better. Im sure many of the people backing this project have backgrounds working in bio labs. For me one of the most fun parts will be following your progress and how you are troubleshooting problems. Bring on the details!

    9. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Michael Michalchik on May 1, 2013

      I think your bottle necks are going to be energy production and free radical damage.

      Have you considered that once you get the necessary genes into a few strains and get visable light you might get your best results by selective breeding for a few generations for teh most robust and brightest plant rather than trying to engineer the plants into their final form?

      You might also consider signal petides of some sort to compartantmentalize the reaction to limit toxic side effects.

    10. Penda.small

      Creator Justin Timothy on May 1, 2013

      How possible would it be to make an illuminated tree? Perhaps a pine tree?

    11. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Nathanael Pine on May 1, 2013

      Your update was great. Very illuminating.:-)

    12. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Jory Meltzer on May 1, 2013

      That was a great explanation, thanks!

    13. Glowing_plant.small

      Creator Antony Evans on May 1, 2013

      Tejeev: after these steps. This is the main work that we will be doing for the next six to nine months, and then we need a few months to grow the plants to generate enough seeds.

    14. Missing_small

      Creator Tejeev on May 1, 2013

      Will you be fulfilling the pledges before or after these steps are taken to some degree?

    15. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Heather Thompson on May 1, 2013

      Thank you for keeping us informed, fascinating - I need to learn more!

    16. Glowing_plant.small

      Creator Antony Evans on May 1, 2013

      We decided not going to formally respond to the article, we don't want to give them more traffic. He's already retracted the first part of his criticism. And in the energy section he compares lumens of a street lamp with lumens per square feet of our plant without pointing out that a tree would be many many square feet. He also makes an extremely pessimistic assumption regarding the energy efficiency of bioluminescence systems.

    17. Missing_small

      Creator Matthias Granberry on May 1, 2013

      Please post a response to the criticism by Ars Technica's science writer. I know that the biochemistry differs significantly between the bacterial bioluminescence that you plan to use and firefly bioluminescence, but it was a fairly damming criticism by a writer that is normally fairly good.

    18. Jamesblaha.small

      Creator James Blaha on April 30, 2013

      I'd like as many technical details as I can get :) I've opened up genome compiler and am looking through the files you have shared. What is the difference between 6.2 and 6.3?

    19. Catmelonhead.small

      Creator Drew on April 30, 2013

      Great read! Keep them coming.

    20. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Andrew Curtin on April 30, 2013

      I love this kind of detail, even if it is over my head. Keep updates like this one comin', they're great!

8,433
Backers
$484,013
pledged of $65,000 goal
0
seconds to go
  • Pledge $5 or more
    You selected

    426 backers

    You'll get a 2"x3" sticker showing the worlds first glowing plant to put on your phone or laptop! And if that's not enough, your name will be added to our website and book as a supporter.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $2 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $25 or more
    You selected

    179 backers

    SUPPORTER - inspire others by showing off this snazzy t-shirt

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $10 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $40 or more
    You selected

    1000 backers All gone!

    GLOWING PLANT SEEDS. Grow your own glowing plant at home, includes full instructions for how to tend and care for it

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships within the US only
  • Pledge $40 or more
    You selected

    4699 backers Limited (301 left of 5000)

    GLOWING PLANT SEEDS Batch II. Grow your own glowing plant at home, includes full instructions for how to tend and care for it

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships within the US only
  • Pledge $65 or more
    You selected

    141 backers

    rootcupPLANTER - perfect for growing your Glowing Plant seeds. BONUS: Glowing plant seeds

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships within the US only
  • Pledge $65 or more
    You selected

    199 backers Limited (1 left of 200)

    Recycled light bulb vase that you can show off to your friends BONUS: Glowing plant seeds

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $80 or more
    You selected

    277 backers Limited (223 left of 500)

    Vase II: A minimalist vase made from an old light bulb. BONUS: Glowing plant seeds

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $90 or more
    You selected

    308 backers

    INSPIRE YOURSELF: Beautiful printed photo book detailing the process for how we make the plant. BONUS: Glowing plant seeds

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $120 or more
    You selected

    100 backers All gone!

    EARLY BIRD. Be the first to get an actual glowing plant.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships within the US only
  • Pledge $150 or more
    You selected

    553 backers

    GLOWING PLANT. We will grow and ship you an actual glowing arabidopsis plant. Use it as a nightlight or show your friends how cool synthetic biology is

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships within the US only
  • Pledge $250 or more
    You selected

    210 backers

    DIY MAKER KIT: A copy of the book, a full set of instructions and all the ingedients you need to transform your own plant at home, in your lab or at school. BONUS: Glowing plant seeds

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships within the US only
  • Pledge $500 or more
    You selected

    5 backers

    BE CREATIVE: declare your love for someone or leave a message for your kids to decode in ten years time!! You will receive a vial containing a tweet size (140 characters) of your desired message printed in DNA! We will use Craig Venter's ASCII->DNA translation table to transform the message to DNA and send you a vial with 4ug of that synthesized DNA. BONUS: Glowing plant seeds

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $5,000 or more
    You selected

    2 backers Limited (8 left of 10)

    TEACH A CLASS: One of the team members will come to visit you and spend a day teaching about the project. This includes a hands on workshop where you will get to transform your own plants, ingredients included for up to 10 groups of 3-4 students to do the transformation.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships within the US only
  • Pledge $10,000 or more
    You selected

    1 backer Limited (4 left of 5)

    BE A PART OF HISTORY: Your name (or anything under 30 characters) will be written, in DNA, into the glowing plant genome!! As part of the DNA construct we will design and synthesize, we will add a watermark section using the same methods used by Craig Venter's team. We will add the names or any remarks from this group of backers in DNA to the final design and do PR around the messages - a unique opportunity to spread your message! BONUS: Glowing plant seeds

    Estimated delivery:
Funding period

- (44 days)