“Recoding Regulation – Synthetic Expansions of Plant Metabolism”
Plants evolved regulatory networks to coordinate complex chemical defences as well as changes to their growth and development to help them survive in an ever-shifting environment that they cannot simply walk away from. Working towards the long-term goals of manipulating plant responses through the rational engineering of gene regulatory networks and engineering plants as photosynthetic biomanufacturing platforms of complex metabolites, we are investigating the intrinsic and emergent properties of gene regulatory elements, network motifs and, ultimately how phenotypes emerge from network functions.
The application of engineering principles to plant biology has enabled us to establish platforms for high-throughput automated experimentation at nanoscales. We have established a quantitative experimental system to investigate how the identity, density and position of cis regulatory elements contribute to regulatory function. We then identified permissive architectures for minimal synthetic plant promoters and used our understanding of promoter architecture to enable the computational design of synthetic promoters of predictable strengths. These have been applied to regulate relative expression in synthetic biosynthesis pathways, improving our ability to control the production of molecules of interest.
Biography: Nicola Patron is a research group leader in plant molecular and synthetic biology at the Earlham Institute, an independent bioscience institute on the Norwich Research Park, UK. Her group investigates the plant gene expression and metabolic diversification and applies this knowledge to engineering plants as photosynthetic platforms for biomanufacturing and to improving the yield and nutritional value of crops.
Nicola also directs the Earlham Biofoundry, a facility developing automated, nanoscale workflows for biology and biotechnology.
Nicola has a PhD in plant molecular biology and pursued postdoctoral research at The John Innes Centre and The University of British Columbia. As a 2015 SynBioLEAP fellow, Nicola was recognized as an emerging leader in synthetic biology.