Engineered Microbe-to-Plant Communication

Engineered Microbe-to-Plant Communication

Tyler Toth

I am working to create engineerable forms of communication between plants and microbes that do not exist in nature. This is ultimately to facilitate the creation synthetic symbiotic relationships between plants and microbes that could reduce fertilizer use, sense environmental contaminants, or fight off pathogens in crop fields. 

I created several new sensors in plants and was screening how well they respond to their corresponding signal when that signal is produced by engineered soil bacteria. The different color bacteria are to show that the engineered bacteria producing the communication signal (red) are not outcompeted by the wildtype bacteria that do not produce the signal (blue). This image showed me that 1) this sensor in the plant functions since it turns green in response to the communication signal and 2) the bacteria producing the signal can compete in an environment with wildtype bacteria.

To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of engineered microbe-to-plant communication.

a spiky tube-like structure in green with red and blue dots

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