Targeted genome editing of plants and plant cells for biomanufacturing

J.F. Buyel*, E. Stoger, L. Bortesi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Plants have provided humans with useful products since antiquity, but in the last 30 years they have also been developed as production platforms for small molecules and recombinant proteins. This initially niche area has blossomed with the growth of the global bioeconomy, and now includes chemical building blocks, polymers and renewable energy. All these applications can be described as "plant molecular farming" (PMF). Despite its potential to increase the sustainability of biologics manufacturing, PMF has yet to be embraced broadly by industry. This reflects a combination of regulatory uncertainty, limited information on process cost structures, and the absence of trained staff and suitable manufacturing capacity. However, the limited adaptation of plants and plant cells to the requirements of industry-scale manufacturing is an equally important hurdle. For example, the targeted genetic manipulation of yeast has been common practice since the 1980s, whereas reliable site-directed mutagenesis in most plants has only become available with the advent of CRISPR/Cas9 and similar genome editing technologies since around 2010. Here we summarize the applications of new genetic engineering technologies to improve plants as biomanufacturing platforms. We start by identifying current bottlenecks in manufacturing, then illustrate the progress that has already been made and discuss the potential for improvement at the molecular, cellular and organism levels. We discuss the effects of metabolic optimization, adaptation of the endomembrane system, modified glycosylation profiles, programmable growth and senescence, protease inactivation, and the expression of enzymes that promote biodegradation. We outline strategies to achieve these modifications by targeted gene modification, considering case-by-case examples of individual improvements and the combined modifications needed to generate a new general-purpose "chassis" for PMF.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-426
Number of pages26
JournalTransgenic Research
Issue number4
Early online date1 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • chassis
  • metabolic optimization
  • modified glycosylation
  • plant molecular farming
  • programmable growth and senescence
  • protease inactivation
  • Chassis
  • Plant molecular farming
  • Metabolic optimization
  • Protease inactivation
  • Modified glycosylation
  • Programmable growth and senescence


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