Thermo Fisher has supplied a robotic system at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to control plant growth.
Researchers will use the Yeast 1 Hybrid solution to automate the interactions of plant genomes with their transcription factors.
By understanding the control of plant growth and response to stresses such as drought, flooding or cold, the lab aims to gain information necessary to improve crops and meet the demands of a growing and changing population.
There are between 30,000 and 60,000 genes in most plant genomes, and the transcription of each can be up- or down-regulated by transcription factors that bind to the promoter region of the genes.
The manual assessment of each transcription factor and its effect on each gene is a time-consuming, laborious task.
The larger, custom-built automated workflow system, on the other hand, integrates 16 instruments to perform 200,000 DNA protein interaction experiments per week. Manually, an individual can perform 2,000 experiments, and that work is often monotonous and grueling.
“The introduction of these robots will open up new avenues of research in plant science,” said Dr. Todd Mockler, associate member and Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil Distinguished Investigator at the Donald Danforth Plant Center.
“We plan to systematically investigate all DNA binding proteins in the plants we study and assess their interactions with the regulatory DNA next to the genes. This will allow us to know which particular DNA binding protein controls which genes.
“When we have identified all of these interactions, we can start making informed decisions about which genes to tweak to elicit certain effects on the plant - enabling them to grow better in drought conditions for example.”