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Agriculture and Plant Genetics

Category
Technology Name
Briefcase
Scientist
1796
Oil is an important commodity in the global economy, used in numerous industries such as energy, cosmetics, food, personal care, and many more. However, oil based on petroleum is problematic due to finite supply, increasing environmental concerns, and regulations. Oils derived (?) from plant sources...

Oil is an important commodity in the global economy, used in numerous industries such as energy, cosmetics, food, personal care, and many more. However, oil based on petroleum is problematic due to finite supply, increasing environmental concerns, and regulations. Oils derived (?) from plant sources tend to compete with valuable arable land and consume fresh water.

Therefore oil sourced from algae as an alternative is an attractive option, as algae does not pollute, does not require arable land, and can use sea water. Yet current methods of producing oil from algae have limited net yields.

The present technology uses the virus EhV201 to modify the metabolism of microalgae Emiliania huxleyi to increase the production of high quality saturated and mono-unsaturated Triacylglycerides (TAGs). The method is simple to apply in increasing TAG content, does not perturb biomass production, and can even simplify the harvesting of the microalgae produced TAGs.

Applications


·         Directed production of Algal Oil from saturated and mono-unsaturated triacylglycerides for the production of high value products in the food, energy, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical industries.

·         Secondary and tertiary products can be co-extracted or generated from the TAGs and microalgae for different industrial uses:

o   Glycerol and fatty acids for food and cosmetics.

o   Algal cake (residual microalgae material) for animal feed, fertilizers, and so on.


Advantages


?  Straightforward procedure

?  High yield

?  No Genetic Modification

?  Simple and economical - no special equipment or conditions to induce TAG production

?  Scalable- as the EhV201 regenerates itself


Technology's Essence


The application of infecting E. huxleyi with EhV201, to increase triacylglyceride (TAG) production represents a promising innovation in creating an alternative source of oil. The system is simple to apply requiring minimal modification of current microalgae bioreactors. The use of the EhV201 to induce TAG production has been shown to be superior to current established methods of nutrient deprivation. Moreover, the technique does not require genetic modification of microalgae, avoiding regulatory challenges. Finally the technology also has added value being environmentally friendly, and possibly opening the avenue for claiming carbon credits, due to the carbon fixation of the microalgae.

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  • Ph.D. Assaf Vardi
  • Ph.D. Assaf Vardi
1736
Biomass production by plants and other photosynthetic organisms involves carbon fixation, the process of incorporating inorganic carbon dioxide into organic compounds. Currently carbon fixation by plants and other photosynthetic organisms is the limiting factor in biomass production. Improvement in the...

Biomass production by plants and other photosynthetic organisms involves carbon fixation, the process of incorporating inorganic carbon dioxide into organic compounds. Currently carbon fixation by plants and other photosynthetic organisms is the limiting factor in biomass production.

Improvement in the metabolic pathway related to carbon fixation would have great value in increasing crop yields, synthesizing high value compounds in algae, and developing means in removing CO2 from the atmosphere to combat climate change.

The present technology is an engineered E. coli with a carbon fixation pathway. The unique innovation can be used to efficiently screen the activity of RuBisCO, the most abundant carbon fixing enzyme on earth, which is further applicable to improving biomass production in different photosynthetic organisms such as plants and algae.

Applications


·      Powerful platform for screening and improving various enzymes in the carbon fixation process.

·      Unique metabolic pathway for use in Synthetic Biology applications.

·      Possible Carbon Credits for developing improved means of carbon fixation.


Advantages


·      E. coli is fast growing and easily manipulated by various genetic tools.

·      Novel source of biomass production.

·      Potentially low cost R&D system.


Technology's Essence


The technology functions by the recombinant insertion of two enzymes from the Calvin-Benson-Bassham (CBB) into E. coli, kinase prk and the carboxylating enzyme RuBisCO. With further modifications, the engineered E. coli’s metabolism was divided into two subsections. First a carbon fixing metabolism that can incorporate inorganic CO2 into sugar production, the second subsection consumes organic pyruvate to produce energy to drive the aforementioned carbon fixing cycle. Subsequently the technology is overall carbon neutral, but is an inexpensive and fast platform for screening improvements in the CBB carbon fixation pathway.

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  • Prof. Ron Milo
1782
L-DOPA is a high value compound used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and a precursor for other high value compounds. Current industrial methods for producing L-DOPA are problematic in terms of complexity, yield, or toxic byproducts.Betalains are robust, flavorless, natural water soluble dyes,...

L-DOPA is a high value compound used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and a precursor for other high value compounds. Current industrial methods for producing L-DOPA are problematic in terms of complexity, yield, or toxic byproducts.
Betalains are robust, flavorless, natural water soluble dyes, in the color ranges of both red-violet and yellow-orange. Currently there is no natural quality source for water soluble natural yellow dyes, with present natural yellow dyes being water insoluble.
The present technology offers an alternative method that is simple, does not produce side-products, and is non-toxic with Tyrosine being the only feedstock. The technology produces L-DOPA and natural water soluble yellow and red Betalain dyes, both within yeast and in different plant species.

Applications


  • Production of L-DOPA for use in pharmaceuticals or dietary supplements.
  • Synthesis of water soluble yellow and red natural dyes for use as colorants, antioxidants, and food supplements.
  • Altering coloration of ornamental plants by inserting the metabolic pathway.

Advantages


  • One-step reaction for L-DOPA synthesis from Tyrosine.
  • Non-toxic and non-hazardous synthesis.
  • Ecologically friendly - no waste management issues.
  • Multiple colors can be produced with yellow, red, or orange if pathways combined.
  • Flavorless - avoid influencing the taste of different products.
  • Flexibility in biosynthetic production - multiple possible host systems.
  • Specificity - no side products produced
  • Mild Conditions - enzyme(s) requires ambient temperatures.

Technology's Essence


The present technology takes advantage of the Betalain biosynthetic pathway to selectively produce L-DOPA and natural Betalain dyes. A newly discovered, specific, cytochrome P450-CYP76AD6 begins the pathway, with the capacity to convert Tyrosine to L-DOPA. Then L-DOPA is converted to Betalamic acid via DOPA 4, 5-dioxygenase.
With the Betalamic acid intermediate, the biosynthetic pathway diverges to make either Betaxanthins (yellow dyes) or Betacyanins (red dyes). In the production of yellow dyes an amine (e.g. amino acid) spontaneously reacts with Betalamic acid. In the case of red dyes, cycloDOPA (generated by the enzyme CYP76AD1 modifying Tyrosine and L-DOPA) and a Betalain-related glucosyltransferase react with Betalamic acid. Furthermore the two pathways can be done in parallel to produce an orange color.

 

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  • Prof. Asaph Aharoni
1587
An innovative technique to preserve and prolong shelf-life in crop-plants cost-effectively. Different agricultural crops from Solanaceous species which include tomato, potato and eggplant, overcome oxidative stress by the production of steroidal glycoalkaloids (SGAs) and steroidal saponins. Although...

An innovative technique to preserve and prolong shelf-life in crop-plants cost-effectively.
Different agricultural crops from Solanaceous species which include tomato, potato and eggplant, overcome oxidative stress by the production of steroidal glycoalkaloids (SGAs) and steroidal saponins. Although SGAs contribute to plant resistance to a wide range of pathogens and predators some are considered as toxic to humans, with potato known as most relevance to food safety.
This innovative technology offers improvement  of nutritional composition and prolonged shelf-life of Solanaceous species, which are widely consumed crop-plants with a market size of hundreds of billions of tones produced yearly worldwide.

Applications


Modification of steroidal glycoalkaloids and steroidal saponins compounds in plants can be used for two purposes:
1. Widely used crop-plants from Solanaceae species with reduced anti-nutritional components.  Leading to a longer shelf-life of crop-plants with safer nutritional compounds. 
2. Highly resistant modified plant with enriched toxic steroidal glycoalkaloids content for non-edible usage. 

Advantages


  • Prolongs shelf-life- by preventing post-harvest elevated toxicity levels.
  • Reduction of undesired anti-nutritional alkaloids, by means that do not affect other biological plant pathways.
  • Helps avoiding spoilage and toxicity of plants that manifest during storage and process.
  • Stress and pathogen-resistant plants for non-edible usage: Genetically modified plants with elevated toxic steroidal glycoalkaloids content will result in enhanced resistance to stress related factors. The outcome will also be prolonged shelf-life achieved in a clean economic manner (reduced need of pesticides/ insecticides).

Technology's Essence


The invention relates to key genes and enzymes on the biosynthesis pathway converting cholesterol to SGA. Biosynthesis involves an array of genes. Modulation of specific regulatory, transcription factor genes had enabled strict control of the production of steroidal alkaloids and glycosylated derivatives therefore.
Prof. Asaph Aharoni discovered the key genes in the biosynthesis of steroidal saponins and steroidal alkaloids in his lab at the Weizmann institute. He also developed a method for altering the gene expression and the production (reduction or elevation) of these components in plants from the Solanaceae species.

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  • Prof. Asaph Aharoni
1556
Synthetic carbon fixation pathways can allow plants to produce more biomass using the same amount of energy from sunlight. Novel carbon fixation cycles discovered at The Weizmann Institute hold potential to greatly increase the capacity of organisms to convert atmospheric carbon into sugars. Modern...

Synthetic carbon fixation pathways can allow plants to produce more biomass using the same amount of energy from sunlight. Novel carbon fixation cycles discovered at The Weizmann Institute hold potential to greatly increase the capacity of organisms to convert atmospheric carbon into sugars.

Modern agriculture faces limited arable land and climate changes. Carbon fixation under these conditions will become a significant growth limiting factor. The proposed solution provides the ability to enhance crop yields using the same expanse of land.

The novel technology presents alternative synthetic carbon fixation pathways that were discovered by harnessing a systems biology approach. These pathways are predicted to harbor a significant kinetic advantage over their natural counter parts, making them promising candidates for synthetic biology implementation.

Applications


  • Synthetic organisms utilizing this revolutionary technology can offer higher carbon fixation rates as compared to natural alternatives allowing:
  • Superior rate of biomass generation, providing cost effective feedstock for the production of biofuels.
  • Enhanced food production via increased crop yields.

Advantages


  • Minimal thermodynamic bottlenecks and superior kinetics over natural counterparts.

Technology's Essence


The productivity of carbon fixation cycles is limited by the slow rate and lack of substrate specificity of the carboxylating enzyme, RuBisCo. In his discovery Dr. Milo addresses the inefficiency of the carbon fixation process through an alternative cycle that is predicted to be two to three times faster than the Calvin–Benson cycle, employing the most effective carboxylating enzyme, phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase, using the core of the naturally evolved C4 cycle.

A computational strategy was applied, comparing kinetics, energetic and topology of all the possible pathways that can be assembled from all ~4,000 metabolic enzymes known in nature.

The results suggest a promising new family of synthetic carbon fixation pathways.

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  • Prof. Ron Milo
1592
Novel genetically modified crops resistant to environmental friendly herbicides.Weeds are considered to be one of the major causes for crop losses by farmers. It is estimated that weeds cause an overall 12% reduction in crop yields or $33 billion in lost crop annually. With the advent of biotechnology...

Novel genetically modified crops resistant to environmental friendly herbicides.Weeds are considered to be one of the major causes for crop losses by farmers. It is estimated that weeds cause an overall 12% reduction in crop yields or $33 billion in lost crop annually. With the advent of biotechnology, several genetically modified (GM) crops were developed that are insect-resistant or herbicide-tolerant - to make pest and weed control easier for farmers. The major trait sought in GM crops is herbicide tolerance as one component of the weed management system. However, use of herbicide resistant crop does not fully protect from weeds, since herbicide-resistant weeds appear and propagate. The appearance of herbicide resistant weeds warrants the development of novel herbicide-tolerant crops. The present technology provides a method for introducing into plants the artificial resistance toward herbicide amino acids, which are not toxic to humans.

Applications


  • Conferring to transgenic plants resistance to the presence of phytotoxic non-protein amino acids.
  • Herbicide tolerance to meta-tyrosine can be expanded into different types of crops such as wheat, cotton, alfalfa, etc.
  • Development of additional non-protein herbicidal amino acids and crops resistant to these compounds.

Advantages


  • Weed control can be performed with non-hazardous, environment-friendly herbicides.
  • Genetically-modified resistant crops enable the use of non-selective herbicides, allowing for more robust weed management.

Technology's Essence


The method is based on incorporation into the plant’s organelles (mitochondria and chloroplast) bacterial aaRS possessing editing activity toward a given toxic amino acid (aaRS in organelles usually lack such activity). As a proof-of-concept, a genetically modified Arabidopsis thaliana was created, capable of growing in the presence of exogenous meta-tyrosine (a known herbicide) at concentrations that have a deleterious effect on unmodified plant. However, the method is not limited to Arabidopsis thaliana or to m-tyr amino acid only.

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  • Prof. Mark Safro
1536
Designer cellulosomes are synthetic multi-enzyme complexes that can degrade cellulosic biomass efficiently and economically. The goal of second generation biofuel production is to efficiently convert agricultural waste, algae and other cellulosic biomass into sugar monomers.   Cellulosic biomass...

Designer cellulosomes are synthetic multi-enzyme complexes that can degrade cellulosic biomass efficiently and economically. The goal of second generation biofuel production is to efficiently convert agricultural waste, algae and other cellulosic biomass into sugar monomers.

 

Cellulosic biomass pretreated (e.g. with acid) under ideal conditions, still requires very high enzyme doses to provide efficient bioconversion.

The cost of enzymes and pretreatment is a major hurdle in the production of low-cost cellulosic biofuel, competitive with that of fossil fuels or ethanol produced from corn or sugarcane.

 

The complex structure of cellulosic materials is built to resist bacterial hydrolytic enzymes. The cooperation of many types of carbohydrate-active enzymes is required for effective degradation. By designing synthetic cellulosomes, researchers at The Weizmann Institute enhance synergy between carbohydrate-active enzymes to achieve remarkable degradation rates. Their discoveries can lead to highly efficient conversion of cellulosic biomass, and thus have a major impact in the field of food production and sustainable energy.

Applications


  • High-yield, cost-effective conversion of plant cell wall biomass into soluble sugars for the food industry and the production of biofuels and biochemicals.

Advantages


  • Bio-engineered cellulosomes exhibit synergistic degradation activity of natural substrates compared to the combined action of the free wild-type enzymes.

Technology's Essence


The invention involves the conversion of enzymes (cellulases and xylanases) from the free mode to the cellulosmal mode by attachment using a recombinant dockerin molecule. The dockerin-bearing enzymes are incorporated into designer cellulosomes by interacting with a matching cohesion-containing chimeric scaffoldin (scaffoldin subunits contain the cohesin modules that incorporate the enzymes into the cellulosome complex via their resident dockerins). This approach has generated over two fold enhancement of synergistic hydrolysis on plant cell wall cellulosic biomass. These results create new possibilities for designing superior enzyme compositions for degradation of complex polysaccharides into simple soluble sugars.

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  • Prof. Edward A. Bayer
1407
Thermotolerant photosynthetic organisms endure worsening climate conditions such as increased temperatures and higher levels of CO2. These novel organisms maintain photosynthetic activity and growth under a wide temperature range (15-45oC) as opposed to their wild-type counterparts. Thermotolerant...

Thermotolerant photosynthetic organisms endure worsening climate conditions such as increased temperatures and higher levels of CO2. These novel organisms maintain photosynthetic activity and growth under a wide temperature range (15-45oC) as opposed to their wild-type counterparts.

Thermotolerant organisms also exhibit higher transparency to light. Photosynthetic efficiency is maintained even though they produce and utilize less chlorophyll molecules; therefore less surface area is required for optimal cultivation. Furthermore, increased CO2 concentrations are preferable for thermotolerant organisms’ efficient photosynthesis.

The innovative solution discovered at The Weizmann Institute, involves replacement of 1-2 amino acid residues in a protein motif within the D1 protein subunit of Photosystem II (the protein complex responsible for the conversion of solar energy to a useful form of energy by photosynthesis). Such a solution has the potential to provide platforms for food production and sustainable energy in regions with harsh climate conditions that until today, were deemed unfit for cultivation.

Applications


  • Bacterial platform to produce biomass or materials (e.g. nutraceuticals) in higher temperatures and higher CO2.
  • Food and biofuel production: adaptation of crops to harsh climates.

Advantages


  • Enhanced Thermal stability and plasticity of the modified organisms to a much broader range than observed for the native organisms.
  • Greater Light penetration (e.g. in ponds) without losing photosynthetic efficiency - thermotolerant organisms maintain efficient activity with less chlorophylls thus allowing greater transmission of light to deeper spaces.
  • Thermotolerant organisms withstand high CO2 concentrations.

Technology's Essence


Professor Avigdor Scherz and his team focused on the sequences of the two major protein subunits D1 and D2 found in all purple bacteria PSII reaction centers. Two sites, D1-209 and D1-212, were found to show consistent changes between mesophilic, thermotolerant and thermophilic organisms including cyanobacteria, algae and green plants.

The sites are positioned in a GXXXG-like structural motif (where G denotes small residues such as Gly, Ala, Ser, Cys and Thr) typical of helix-helix interactions. The motif was found at the points of closest contact between the two major protein subunits, D1 and D2. It was shown that mutations in the amino acids within the identified GXXXG-like motif  result in modification of the local flexibility of the reaction center and, consequently, in the induction of thermophilic behavior.

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  • Prof. Avigdor Scherz
1503
Application of Ureides-class compounds protects plants from stress related senescence, effectively extending the shelf-life of vegetables, fruit, leafy greens, cut branches and flowers. Plants suffer damage from factors such as oxidative stress, premature senescence and chlorophyll degradation. All of...

Application of Ureides-class compounds protects plants from stress related senescence, effectively extending the shelf-life of vegetables, fruit, leafy greens, cut branches and flowers.

Plants suffer damage from factors such as oxidative stress, premature senescence and chlorophyll degradation. All of the above can impact the freshness of produce from harvest to end-consumer. Researchers at the Weizmann Institute found that under certain stress conditions model plants produce Ureides, shown to have a protective role. Unexpectedly, this protection can also be achieved by the exogenous application to plants or plant parts post-harvest.

This innovative technique to preserve and prolong the shelf-life of fresh produce is clean, organic and cost-effective. In addition, engineered strains with altered Ureides metabolism can prove more resistant to stress related senescence.

Applications


  • Post-harvest protection of produce via
  • Exogenous application (spray on leaves, add to roots etc.).
  • Incorporation in packaging (e.g. embedded in plastic film).

Advantages


  • Treatment of both aging and light-deprivation in plants
  • Readily available and easily applied, does not require expertise to protect produce
  • Organic, clean, biodegradable materials.

Technology's Essence


Prof. Robert Fluhr and his team found that in wild-type plants conditions of extended darkness or increasing leaf age caused induction of transcripts related to purine catabolism, resulting in marked accumulation of Ureides. In contrast, Arabidopsis mutants of XDH, Atxdh1, accumulated the Ureides precursor (Xanthine) and showed premature senescence symptoms such as enhanced chlorophyll degradation, extensive cell death and upregulation of senescence-related transcripts.

The level of plant reactive oxygen species (ROS) and mortality can be attenuated by the addition of Ureides, suggesting that these metabolites can act as scavengers of ROS. The results highlighted that the regulation of Ureides levels by Atxdh1 has implications for optimal plant survival during nutrient remobilization, such as occurs during normal growth, dark stress and senescence.

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  • Prof. Robert Fluhr
1357
A method to introduce salt responsive genes from halo tolerant organisms was used to generate salt resistant transgenic plants. The progressive salinization of agricultural soils poses a major limitation for the growth and productivity of crop plants. Although engineering technologies involving...

A method to introduce salt responsive genes from halo tolerant organisms was used to generate salt resistant transgenic plants.

The progressive salinization of agricultural soils poses a major limitation for the growth and productivity of crop plants. Although engineering technologies involving drainage and supply of high quality water have been developed to overcome this problem, the existing methods are extremely costly and time-consuming. In many instances, due to the increased need for extensive agriculture, neither improved irrigation efficiency nor the installation of drainage systems is applicable. Current attempts to enhance the salinity tolerance of crop plants are based on conventional breeding and selection of resistant variants. However, such breeding techniques typically require years to develop, are labor intensive and expensive.  The present invention relates to the transformation of salt inducible or salt-responsive genes into plants, thus turning them into having high salt tolerance.

Applications


  • Salt resistant plants can grow in soils containing a high salt concentration
  • Survival of salt shock
  • Modification of  plant recovery after exposure to salt stress

Advantages


  • The use of genes adapted specifically to very high salt concentrations, rather than genes from regular plants, makes the transgenic plants superior compared to other salt-tolerant plants
  • Transgenic plants can grow in seawater, thus saving precious drinking water

Technology's Essence


The unicellular green algae Dunaliella salina, a dominant organism in many saline environments, can adapt to practically the entire range of salinities. Dunaliella proteins function at high salinity, and this special feature of the proteins was utilized in order to confer salt-tolerance in plants. In the outlined invention plants were transformed with genes from Dunaliella, thus creating transgenic plants that have increased tolerance to salt as compared to corresponding non-transgenic plants.

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  • Prof. Uri Pick
1478
Plants can regain enhanced color and aroma via increased production of aromatic amino acids. Researchers at the Weizmann institute of science discovered a key regulatory enzyme of a central metabolic pathway in bacteria and expressed it in plants, obtaining transgenic plants with increased levels of...

Plants can regain enhanced color and aroma via increased production of aromatic amino acids. Researchers at the Weizmann institute of science discovered a key regulatory enzyme of a central metabolic pathway in bacteria and expressed it in plants, obtaining transgenic plants with increased levels of secondary metabolites including higher level of aromatic amino acids.

Farmers and researches have implemented intense selective breeding in flowering plants as an attempt to improve features of decorative flowers, focusing on appearance and shelf life. Consequently, one of the most valuable qualities of the flower such as its scent and had been severely weakened. Traditional breeding is limited in its ability to supply the market demand for creating original or enhanced colors due to genetic requirements.

The innovative method can improve scent and color of decorative flowering plants without interfering with other natural mechanisms of the plant.

Applications


  • Improved esthetical value due to strong color and pleasant scent to ornamental flowers.
  • The color and scent of flowers has an additional eco-systematic role in the reproduction of fruits. Manipulating both color and odor may allow future optimized ability the repulse insects or attracts pollinators. 
  •  This method can be applied not only to enhance naturally existing color but also for the recently commercialized production of new colors of plants. For example flavonoid biosynthesis which was shown to be enhanced by this method was also found to be highly relevant in generating unique flowers colors

Advantages


  • Enhanced fragrance and colors utilizing natural metabolic pathways of flowering plants.
  • No breeding and selection required to enhance flowers’ traits.
  • Endogenous integration between bacteria and plant that involves no interference with other natural mechanisms in the plants.

Technology's Essence


Researches at Prof. Gad Galili’s lab elicited a significant increase in the direct products of the shikimate pathway and in the aromatic amino acid Phenylalanine.

A central regulator in the shikimate pathway is the first committed enzyme of the pathway; 3-deoxy-D-arabino-heptulosonate 7-phosphate synthase (DAHPS). The bacterial DAHPS is feedback inhibited by a separate amino acid. At the core of this technology is the dominant isoform that is the AroG gene which is under the regulation of Phenylalanine and responsible for 80% of the total DAHPS activity.

By expressing a mutant bacterial AroG gene encoding a feedback insensitive DAHPS in transgenic Arabidopsis plants, researchers achieved increased levels of the shikimate direct metabolites, products and aromatic amino acids. Detailed analysis revealed that while no metabolite exhibited decreased levels in the transgenic plants, the levels of shikimate intermediate metabolites, phenylalanine, tryptophan, and a verity of secondary metabolites (such as auxin and hormones conjugates) were increased by the mutant bacterial gene.

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  • Prof. Gad Galili
  • Prof. Asaph Aharoni