Summary

Plants deploy a wide array of signalling networks integrating environmental cues with growth, defence and developmental responses. The high level of complexity, redundancy and connection between several pathways hampers a comprehensive understanding of involved functional and regulatory mechanisms. The implementation of synthetic biology approaches is revolutionizing experimental biology in prokaryotes, yeasts and animal systems and can likewise contribute to a new era in plant biology. This review gives an overview on synthetic biology approaches for the development and implementation of synthetic molecular tools and techniques to interrogate, understand and control signalling events in plants, ranging from strategies for the targeted manipulation of plant genomes up to the spatiotemporally resolved control of gene expression using optogenetic approaches. We also describe strategies based on the partial reconstruction of signalling pathways in orthogonal platforms, like yeast, animal and in vitro systems. This allows a targeted analysis of individual signalling hubs devoid of interconnectivity with endogenous interacting components. Implementation of the interdisciplinary synthetic biology tools and strategies is not exempt of challenges and hardships but simultaneously most rewarding in terms of the advances in basic and applied research. As witnessed in other areas, these original theoretical–experimental avenues will lead to a breakthrough in the ability to study and comprehend plant signalling networks.

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