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Agriculture and Plant Genetics

Category
Technology Name
Briefcase
Scientist
1846
CRISPR/Cas9 represents a revolutionary jump in genome editing technology, both in terms of flexibility and accuracy. However, an acute challenge for the use of CRISPR/Cas9 in editing plant genomes is that the system has a low efficiency in producing the desired modifications. Therefore, there is a...

CRISPR/Cas9 represents a revolutionary jump in genome editing technology, both in terms of flexibility and accuracy. However, an acute challenge for the use of CRISPR/Cas9 in editing plant genomes is that the system has a low efficiency in producing the desired modifications. Therefore, there is a clear need for a method to improve the efficiency of CRISPR/Cas9 activity in plants.

The team of Prof. Asaph Aharoni have discovered a unique genetic element that can be used in plants to improve the efficiency of CRISPR/Cas9 and similar systems in editing said genomes. The technology is a widely applicable method and simple to apply.

Applications


  •  High efficiency performance for plant genome editing

  •  Compatible with current systems e.g. CRISPR/Cas9 or other genome editing systems


Technology's Essence


The standard method for expressing CRISPR/Cas9 in planta is the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) promoter. The inherent issue with the CaMV promoter is that plants often silence this promoter limiting the expression of CRISPR/Cas9, causing a low efficiency in genome editing. The Aharoni team has discovered genetic elements that enhance expression of a gene in planta without the subsequent silencing by the plants own machinery. The system was tested by targeting color related genes and showed a high efficiency in the number of first generation plants that were CRISPR edited. The technology improves the efficiency and reduces the amount of time and effort required to determine whether a CRISPR modification has occurred. This innovation also has further applications as any given gene can be used for a strong and stable expression in planta.

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  • Prof. Asaph Aharoni
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
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
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
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