Plant hormones determine plant growth, and breeding programs designed around hormone action have a big impact on crop yields.
Strigolactones (SL) are plant hormones that stimulate the growth of symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi that help promote plant growth and development. However, SL also triggers the germination of parasitic plant seeds that can compete with key crop plants, especially in the developing world. To better understand how these hormones interact with their receptors in plants, Dr. Peter McCourt (University of Toronto) and his team will use synthetic biology to develop a biosensor for SL activity. With SPARK and additional support from the DOE-Joint Genomics Institute, the team will synthesize over 250 SL receptor variants that will be screened for activity within the plants. This information will be used to develop a toolbox to promote the healthy growth of agriculturally important plants, instead of the noxious plants that compete with them.