20.109(F08): T/R Team Purple's Research Proposal

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We propose to create a bonsai nightlight by genetically altering a bonsai plant to introduce three functions:

  • luminescence of floral parts (probably petals if not the whole flower as petals are the prominent part of the flower)
  • regulation of luminescence by day/night cycles
  • switch (possibility to "turn off" the luminescence within a half-an-hour time period)

Stuff to Consider

  • Species of bonsai
  • Gene expression in flowers
    • emphasize proteins expressed ONLY in flowers (probably use petals because theyre the prominent part?...)
  • Gene/protein used for glowing
    • Luciferase
    • Luciferin substrate
    • fusion effects?
  • Day/night cycles - luminescence only at night
    • Looking at time-of-the-day-sensitive plants and genes responsible for sensitivity to sunlight
    • How to link luciferase expression with genes associated with day/night cycles
    • Perhaps use genes associated with time-sensitive proteins (is there such thing?) instead of light sensitivity to avoid the weird "feedback loop problem"
  • Possibility to turn luminescence "off" (by spraying or watering, for example)
    • Compound that catalyzes degradation of luciferase
    • Receptors that would allow the compound into the cell
      • modify receptors already present
      • introduce receptors from another species/specifically engineered receptors
      • append ligands to luciferase degraders
  • Side effects
    • Will light from glowing flowers mess up natural day/night cycle of bonsai?
    • Will it mess up year-long cycles?
    • Will life expectancy of bonsai decrease?
    • Harmful to people? (It shouldn't be...)
    • Actual trials with the genetically engineered plant will answer the above questions (except for harmful to people - probably do animal trials?)
    • Additional requirements for plant upkeep? (because it might spend a lot of energy producing the glow) - trials will show if more ATP is needed, in which case, more genetic alteration is needed


Proposed (General) Plan of Action

  • insert genes involved in luciferin biosynthetic pathway in bonsai DNA
  • link expression of luciferin biosynthetic pathway to a gene expressed only in floral parts in order to constitutively synthesize luciferin in flower region
  • insert luciferase gene into bonsai DNA and link it to a gene expressed at night (find a gene associated with day/night cycles)
    • that way, light will only be produced at night, when luciferin and luciferase are both produced in plant flower cells
  • clone gene coding for a receptor responsible for transport of the luciferase inhibitor inside the cell
  • the spray will place luciferase inhibitor on the cell surface allowing for internalization through the receptor and inactivation of luciferase

Future Improvements to the Project

  • different colors
  • reducing costs to make plant cheaper for public
    • cheaper methods of producing both plant and spray
    • perhaps more research to make this trait heritable through seeds