An Open Synthetic Biology Toolkit for Engineering Reliable Genetic Circuits in Microbes in Soil

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This goal of this project is to demonstrate the feasibility of an “open source” toolkit for soil synthetic biology, with the goal of bootstrapping a larger effort that would enable the use of engineered microbes to understand and modulate the complex dynamics of the rhizosphere. We will identify and characterize genetically tractable microbes capable of long-term persistence; create a toolbox of genetic parts for gene circuits and pathways in soil conditions; and design, build, and test a stimulus-response circuit operating in soil. Long-term applications include engineering microbial communities to optimize nutrient uptake and improve survival against environmental hazards such as drought, toxins, or pathogens.

Project objectives:

  • Identify & characterize genetically-tractable microbes capable of long-term soil persistence
  • Create a toolbox of genetic parts for building gene circuits for long-term soil deployment
  • Design, build, and test a stimulus-response circuit with predictable function in soil

Current participants:

Additional participants:

  • Elin Larsson (PhD student, BE)
  • John Marken (PhD student, BE)
  • Mark Prator (Technician, EAS)


Past participants:


RSI-soil syn bio.png

Description of the main objectives of the project


None to date

This work was supported by the Resnick Sustainability Institute.

  • Agency: Resnick Sustainability Institute
  • Grant number:
  • Start date: 1 Jul 2020
  • End date: 30 Jun 2022
  • Support: 1 graduate student for 1 year
  • Reporting: Biannual progress reports