Team:Penn State/Project


Plants as Plants: natural factories producing fuel, plastic, flavoring, and more

Welcome, to the Penn State iGEM wiki page! This year our team took on the challenge of working with plants. Through several projects we hope to help characterize key plant parts and demonstrate the ability of plants to be used as natural factories. Below you will find a short description of the our projects, for more information please refer to the "Projects" page linked on the left of the screen.

Promoter Project

As plants are still novel organisms for most of synthetic biology, we we are interested in developing methods of control for our projects. Currently the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus 35S promoter is the most widely used plant promoter. In hopes of increasing the availability of plant promoters, our project aims at testing viral promoters due to their relative efficiency, as well as cytoskeletal protein promoters due to their natural abundance. Testing these promoters in parallel with the CaMV 35S will create a plant promoter catalog which can be used for future iGEMers exploration of plant synthetic biology.

Cas9 Project

A CRISPR/cas9 system is a large protein guided by a self-guiding RNA, which is capable of targeting specific DNA sequences. Cas9 has been characterized previously in bacteria and mammalian cells. Often targeted to a promoter region, Cas9 acts as highly effective gene repressing tool. The goal of the cas9 project is to make this regulatory tool available to plant genetic engineering.

Cellulose Synthase (Cesa) Project

Cellulose is the most abundant polysaccharide on Earth and is incredibly valuable for multiple uses including paper, cellophane, and biofuel. Although cellulose in everywhere, we are still limited by the amount of production by the plants and constantly use more. The goal of our experiment is to introduce a secondary cell wall cellulose synthase complex into the primary cell wall to ultimately increase the production of cellulose in plants. Our hope is that if we use a primary cell wall promoter followed by secondary CesA’s (Cellulose Synthases) in Arabidopsis thaliana, we can produce more cellulose and create stronger plants.

Butanol Project

The butanol project’s goal is to synthetically produce the enzymes that make up the University of California’s cyanobacteria pathway to produce n-butanol within physcomitrella. Thereby making a plant directly produce n-butanol, an industrially relevant compound that can serve as a more efficient biofuel than ethanol. The project took on another goal when it was realized that an intermediary compound in the pathway could be used to produce (R)-Polyhydroxybutyrate, a biodegradable plastic.

Vanillin Project

Vanillin is one of the major compounds in the vanilla flavor. A phenolic aldehyde, vanillin is also used in the pharmaceutical industry, beverages, as well as a fragrant compound in different products. The demand of Vanillin exceeded the natural production, so annually most vanillin is produced via chemical synthesis. We intend to produce vanillin in different plants as a natural alternative for vanillin production.






Human Practices