Scientists create glowing plants using mushroom genes

Ornamental house plants with sustainably glowing leaves and flowers are now one step closer to reality, thanks to a breakthrough in which scientists leveraged the bioluminescent powers of mushrooms. New research published today in Nature Biotechnology describes a new technique, in which the DNA from bioluminescent mushrooms was used to create plants that glow 10 times brighter than their bacteria-powered precursors. Botanists could eventually use this technique to study the inner workings of plants, but it also introduces the possibility of glowing ornamental plantsfor our homes. The new study, led by Karen Sarkisyan and Ilia Yampolsky from the Russian Academy of Sciences, describes tobacco plants that were genetically modified to express a recently discovered bioluminescent system found in mushrooms. Incredibly, the plants produced around 10 billion photons per minute at wavelengths that peakedbetween 500 and 550 nanometers (the green range of the visible light spectrum). The glowing could be seen with the naked eye, appearing in leaves, stems, roots, and flowersof the bioengineered plants. The project itself was partly funded by Planta LLC, a biotech startup headquartered in Moscow, so commercial implications were very much in mind from the get-go.