Plant and bacterial systems biology as platform for plant synthetic bio(techno)logy

The recent implementation of various high-throughput biochemical and bioanalytical platforms for the study of biological systems has resulted in a wealth of experimental information that systems biology integrates into models and functional descriptions of organisms. The fast tempo of systems biology development is currently bringing in a revolution in the understanding of cell networks by providing with a holistic comprehension of cellular components and their interaction dynamics. This thorough description of biological systems has laid the grounds for the development of synthetic biology, a discipline applying basic principles of engineering for the rational assembly of biological modules into higher order complex biological systems with desired properties. Despite the success of this new field for the generation of biotechnological tools, it has not been yet widely applied to plant systems. This review aims at describing the current status of systems biology, its contribution to our understanding of plant metabolism, expression and regulatory networks and how synthetic biology approaches could benefit utilising plant and bacterial 'omics' as a source for the design and development of biological modules for the improvement of plant stress tolerance and crop production, among other applications. The article further describes synthetic biology strategies currently being applied to plant metabolic engineering, development of signalling pathways and synthetic organelles, and the potential of this new field for the understanding of plant cellular functioning and the generation of plant biotechnological tools. © 2012 Elsevier B.V..