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Crop Biotech Update

Brightest Engineered Plants Glow Throughout Life Cycle

April 29, 2020

Nature Biotechnology reports genetically engineered tobacco plants that glow brightly during its entire lifetime. The findings of the study conducted by researchers from Planta and the Russian Academy of Sciences could be used in the development of imaging tools for plants.

Compared to previously reported glowing plants, these plants shine 10 times brighter, visible to the naked eye, without the need to be fed with chemicals to continue glowing. Other glowing plants were engineered using bioluminescent bacteria or firefly DNA, but these plants were engineered using the DNA of bioluminescent fungi. The fungal bioluminescence system converts caffeic acid into luciferin, a light-emitting compound that causes bioluminescence. The system was proved to be effective in two species of tobacco, Nicotiana tabacum and Nicotiana benthamiana. Since caffeic acid is present in all plants because it is used in the production of lignin, it is possible that this glowing mechanism could be engineered to other plant species.

Read the research article in Nature Biotechnology.

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