Why is Plant Synthetic Biology Important?
Plant synthetic biology has great potential to improve sustainable bioproduction of globally important products; from foodstuffs to fibres to drugs. Advantages of plants over engineered microbes include their worldwide cultivation, their harvest on a giga-tonne scale and the existing precedent for genetically modified crops in many parts of the world. In addition to these applied benefits, plants raise interesting scientific questions and technical challenges around engineering pathways and interactions in multi-cellular, differentiating and developing organisms, adding complexity to current microbial experiments.
Plant synthetic biology is a young field and requires the development of tools and techniques to deal with additional complexity, such as improved genome editing, DNA synthesis and assembly at chromosomal or genomic scales. Supply of plant DNA parts is expected to increase rapidly, which is why the sharing and characterization of these components is a priority; particularly in the liverwort Marchantia, which appears to be a promising candidate for a plant synthetic biology model organism. Tools identified as necessary to support these developments include hardware and software for automation of high-throughput assembly and characterization, plant-relevant software models, data repositories and standards to increase interoperability of the parts and their associated data.