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[Slashdot] - Scientists Create Glowing Plants Using Mushroom Genes

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Emitting an eerie green glow, they look like foliage from a retro computer game, but in fact they are light-emitting plants produced in a laboratory. Researchers say the glowing greenery could not only add an unusual dimension to home decor but also open up a fresh way for scientists to explore the inner workings of plants. "In the future this technology can be used to visualize activities of different hormones inside the plants over the lifetime of the plant in different tissues, absolutely non-invasively. It can also be used to monitor plant responses to various stresses and changes in the environment, such as drought or wounding by herbivores," said Dr Karen Sarkisyan, the CEO of Planta, the startup that led the work, and a researcher at Imperial College London. "We really hope to bring this to the market in a few years from now, once we make them a bit brighter, once we make the ornamental plants with this new technology, and once of course they pass all the existing safety regulations," he added. Writing in the journal Nature Biotechnology, Sarkisyan and a team of colleagues based in Russia and Austria report how they inserted four genes from a bioluminescent mushroom called Neonothopanus nambi into the DNA of tobacco plants. These genes relate to enzymes that convert caffeic acid, through a series of steps, into a luciferin that emits energy as light, before turning the resulting substance back into caffeic acid. The upshot is plants that glow with a greenish hue visible to the naked eye. "They glow both in the dark and in the daylight," said Sarkisyan, adding that the light appeared to be 10 times brighter than that produced by using bacterial genes. The team found the site of the luminescence changed as the plants grew, and luminescence generally decreased as leaves aged and increased where leaves became damaged. Flowers produced the most luminescence, the team report.

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