© Hector Fellow Academy
10. July 2020
Research findings in optoge­net­ics by Jens Timmer

By using a new optoge­netic tool, it is now possi­ble to control light processes in plants precisely

Optoge­net­ics is an extremely impor­tant research tool in biology. By activat­ing specific sections of the genome, the behav­ior of biolog­i­cal cells can be controlled with optical switches. The use of targeted light activa­tion enables to control, e.g., signal and metabolic processes.

Many publi­ca­tions on optoge­net­ics are dealing with cells in mammals, yeasts and bacte­ria. In contrast, works from the field of plant research are far less common. This can be explained by the absence of suitable optical switches that can be used in plant cells and switched there in a targeted manner. Since plants themselves need light for their growth, these switches would be constantly active.

Within the research program Cluster of Excel­lence on Plant Sciences (CEPLAS) of the Heinrich Heine Univer­sity Düssel­dorf (HHU) researchers have now succeeded in devel­op­ing an optoge­netic switch tailored for plants. The CEPLAS researchers collab­o­rated with the Cluster of Excel­lence CIBSS — Center for Integra­tive Biolog­i­cal Signal­ing Studies at the Univer­sity of Freiburg headed by Prof. Dr. Thomas Ott, Prof. Dr. Wilfried Weber and Hector Fellow Prof. Dr. Jens Timmer as well as Ben Miller at the Univer­sity of East-Anglia-Norwich. The team of researchers devel­oped a tool called PULSE (Plant Usable Light-Switch Elements) which is suitable for plants in the normal day / night cycle. It is activated by targeted irradi­a­tion with red light in a very narrowly limited wavelength and resets with normal white light.