Available Technology

Artificial Positive Feedback Loop for Increasing Production of a Biosynthetic Product in Specific Plant Tissues EIB-2930, EIB-2996, EIB-3003, EIB-3085, EIB 2014-028

Dominique Loqué, Henrik V. Scheller, and colleagues at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed a technology that can be used to fine-tune desirable biomass traits in plants. A key feature of the invention is the design of an artificial positive feedback loop whereby a transcription factor induces increased transcription of itself. Gene promoters are selected according to the desired outcome, for example, to improve saccharification efficiency or to raise the level of desirable hexose sugars in relation to hard-to-ferment pentoses. Some promoters can boost secondary cell wall deposition of cellulose; others can decrease deposition of lignin or hemicellulose (xylan). With similar promoter engineering, increased wax production can be directed to the epidermal layers of a plant, improving drought tolerance and efficient water use while preserving energy for increased production of biomass. This versatile technology can be used to improve crops used for biofuels and paper production; provide livestock with more digestible forage; extend the range of crops to marginal land; or produce stronger timber for construction, among other applications. Unlike other genetic engineering methods, when applied to increasing secondary cell wall deposition, the JBEI technologies alter biosynthesis in plant fibers but not in vascular tissue or leaves. Thus they do not adversely affect growth, fertility, or the fruit- or grain-bearing capacity of the plants. Because this new method involves dominant traits and uses genetic promoters that are part of conserved pathways, it will be applicable across many species, including polyploids and sterile plants. Moreover, its application does not require sequencing of the entire genome of the target plant or the presence of a particular variety or cultivar. To date, the technology has been applied to four applications, described below:
Allows temporal and spatial control of gene expression and production of certain compounds in plants - Applicable in a wide variety of plants: monocots; dicots; polyploids; sterile species - Preserved normal plant growth - Does not require genome sequencing or a particular genetic background in the target species. - Examples of outcome-specific advantages include: – Increased saccharification efficiency for biomass plants (up to twofold greater than that of wild types) – Higher epidermal wax content for drought tolerance and efficient water use – Denser biomass reduces biofuels transportation costs and may prevent lodging
Patent Status: 
Published PCT Patent Application WO2012/103555 available at wipo.int. Available for licensing or collaborative research.
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