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Special Issue "Phytosensors: Environmental Sensing with Plants and Plant Cells"

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A special issue of Sensors (ISSN 1424-8220). This special issue belongs to the section "Biosensors".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2008)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Charles Neal Stewart Jr. (Website)

Department of Plant Sciences, 2431 Joe Johnson Dr., Room 252 Ellington Plant Sciences, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-4561, USA
Fax: +1 865 946 1989
Interests: biosensors; biotechnology; bioenergy; environmental stress; GFP; phytosensors; plants; promoters; remote sensing; whole organisms; synthetic biology transgenic plants; weedy plants

Special Issue Information

Because plants are nearly ubiquitous and keystone elements in most ecosystems, scientists have long envisioned using them as environmental sentinels for the sensing of stress and diseases in agricultural systems to toxic chemicals and biological agents outside of agriculture. One way to accomplish this would be to use unique spectral signatures from ‘native’ plants, and while spectra from vegetation tends to be messy, progress has been made. However, as biotechnological and genomic developments have emerged, the promise of genetically engineered sentinel plants has emerged. There are a number of hurdles to implementation such as problems with signal-to-noise and specificity of outputs, but the science has progressed nonetheless. This special issue captures the latest developments in phytosensor science and technology and also points the way to the future. Phytosensors are still in their infancy, and so it is exciting to witness growth and achievements as the science breaks through various hurdles looking toward the day when ‘talking’ plants can act as unmanned sensors to report on crucial components in the environment.

Keywords

  • phyto sensors

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Deployment of a Prototype Plant GFP Imager at the Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse of the Haughton Mars Project
Sensors 2008, 8(4), 2762-2773; doi:10.3390/s8042762
Received: 3 March 2008 / Accepted: 15 April 2008 / Published: 18 April 2008
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (299 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The use of engineered plants as biosensors has made elegant strides in the past decades, providing keen insights into the health of plants in general and particularly in the nature and cellular location of stress responses. However, most of the analytical procedures [...] Read more.
The use of engineered plants as biosensors has made elegant strides in the past decades, providing keen insights into the health of plants in general and particularly in the nature and cellular location of stress responses. However, most of the analytical procedures involve laboratory examination of the biosensor plants. With the advent of the green fluorescence protein (GFP) as a biosensor molecule, it became at least theoretically possible for analyses of gene expression to occur telemetrically, with the gene expression information of the plant delivered to the investigator over large distances simply as properly processed fluorescence images. Spaceflight and other extraterrestrial environments provide unique challenges to plant life, challenges that often require changes at the gene expression level to accommodate adaptation and survival. Having previously deployed transgenic plant biosensors to evaluate responses to orbital spaceflight, we wished to develop the plants and especially the imaging devices required to conduct such experiments robotically, without operator intervention, within extraterrestrial environments. This requires the development of an autonomous and remotely operated plant GFP imaging system and concomitant development of the communications infrastructure to manage dataflow from the imaging device. Here we report the results of deploying a prototype GFP imaging system within the Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse (ACMG) an autonomously operated greenhouse located within the Haughton Mars Project in the Canadian High Arctic. Results both demonstrate the applicability of the fundamental GFP biosensor technology and highlight the difficulties in collecting and managing telemetric data from challenging deployment environments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Phytosensors: Environmental Sensing with Plants and Plant Cells)
Open AccessArticle Pathogen Phytosensing: Plants to Report Plant Pathogens
Sensors 2008, 8(4), 2628-2641; doi:10.3390/s8042628
Received: 28 February 2008 / Accepted: 11 April 2008 / Published: 14 April 2008
Cited by 20 | PDF Full-text (532 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Real-time systems that provide evidence of pathogen contamination in crops can be an important new line of early defense in agricultural centers. Plants possess defense mechanisms to protect against pathogen attack. Inducible plant defense is controlled by signal transduction pathways, inducible promoters [...] Read more.
Real-time systems that provide evidence of pathogen contamination in crops can be an important new line of early defense in agricultural centers. Plants possess defense mechanisms to protect against pathogen attack. Inducible plant defense is controlled by signal transduction pathways, inducible promoters and cis-regulatory elements corresponding to key genes involved in defense, and pathogen-specific responses. Identified inducible promoters and cis-acting elements could be utilized in plant sentinels, or ‘phytosensors’, by fusing these to reporter genes to produce plants with altered phenotypes in response to the presence of pathogens. Here, we have employed cis-acting elements from promoter regions of pathogen inducible genes as well as those responsive to the plant defense signal molecules salicylic acid, jasmonic acid, and ethylene. Synthetic promoters were constructed by combining various regulatory elements supplemented with the enhancer elements from the Cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S promoter to increase basal level of the GUS expression. The inducibility of each synthetic promoter was first assessed in transient expression assays using Arabidopsis thaliana protoplasts and then examined for efficacy in stably transgenic Arabidopsis and tobacco plants. Histochemical and fluorometric GUS expression analyses showed that both transgenic Arabidopsis and tobacco plants responded to elicitor and phytohormone treatments with increased GUS expression when compared to untreated plants. Pathogen-inducible phytosensor studies were initiated by analyzing the sensitivity of the synthetic promoters against virus infection. Transgenic tobacco plants infected with Alfalfa mosaic virus showed an increase in GUS expression when compared to mock-inoculated control plants, whereas Tobacco mosaic virus infection caused no changes in GUS expression. Further research, using these transgenic plants against a range of different pathogens with the regulation of detectable reporter gene could provide biological evidence to define the functional differences between pathogens, and provide new technology and applications for transgenic plants as phytosensors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Phytosensors: Environmental Sensing with Plants and Plant Cells)

Review

Jump to: Research

Open AccessReview Signature Optical Cues: Emerging Technologies for Monitoring Plant Health
Sensors 2008, 8(5), 3205-3239; doi:10.3390/s8053205
Received: 29 February 2008 / Accepted: 13 May 2008 / Published: 16 May 2008
Cited by 25 | PDF Full-text (659 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Optical technologies can be developed as practical tools for monitoring plant health by providing unique spectral signatures that can be related to specific plant stresses. Signatures from thermal and fluorescence imaging have been used successfully to track pathogen invasion before visual symptoms [...] Read more.
Optical technologies can be developed as practical tools for monitoring plant health by providing unique spectral signatures that can be related to specific plant stresses. Signatures from thermal and fluorescence imaging have been used successfully to track pathogen invasion before visual symptoms are observed. Another approach for noninvasive plant health monitoring involves elucidating the manner with which light interacts with the plant leaf and being able to identify changes in spectral characteristics in response to specific stresses. To achieve this, an important step is to understand the biochemical and anatomical features governing leaf reflectance, transmission and absorption. Many studies have opened up possibilities that subtle changes in leaf reflectance spectra can be analyzed in a plethora of ways for discriminating nutrient and water stress, but with limited success. There has also been interest in developing transgenic phytosensors to elucidate plant status in relation to environmental conditions. This approach involves unambiguous signal creation whereby genetic modification to generate reporter plants has resulted in distinct optical signals emitted in response to specific stressors. Most of these studies are limited to laboratory or controlled greenhouse environments at leaf level. The practical translation of spectral cues for application under field conditions at canopy and regional levels by remote aerial sensing remains a challenge. The movement towards technology development is well exemplified by the Controlled Ecological Life Support System under development by NASA which brings together technologies for monitoring plant status concomitantly with instrumentation for environmental monitoring and feedback control. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Phytosensors: Environmental Sensing with Plants and Plant Cells)
Open AccessReview Transgenic Plants as Sensors of Environmental Pollution Genotoxicity
Sensors 2008, 8(3), 1539-1558; doi:10.3390/s8031539
Received: 21 January 2008 / Accepted: 7 March 2008 / Published: 10 March 2008
Cited by 10 | PDF Full-text (353 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Rapid technological development is inevitably associated with manyenvironmental problems which primarily include pollution of soil, water and air. In manycases, the presence of contamination is difficult to assess. It is even more difficult toevaluate its potential danger to the environment and humans. [...] Read more.
Rapid technological development is inevitably associated with manyenvironmental problems which primarily include pollution of soil, water and air. In manycases, the presence of contamination is difficult to assess. It is even more difficult toevaluate its potential danger to the environment and humans. Despite the existence ofseveral whole organism-based and cell-based models of sensing pollution and evaluationof toxicity and mutagenicity, there is no ideal system that allows one to make a quick andcheap assessment. In this respect, transgenic organisms that can be intentionally altered tobe more sensitive to particular pollutants are especially promising. Transgenic plantsrepresent an ideal system, since they can be grown at the site of pollution or potentiallydangerous sites. Plants are ethically more acceptable and esthetically more appealing thananimals as sensors of environmental pollution. In this review, we will discuss varioustransgenic plant-based models that have been successfully used for biomonitoringgenotoxic pollutants. We will also discuss the benefits and potential drawbacks of thesesystems and describe some novel ideas for the future generation of efficient transgenicphytosensors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Phytosensors: Environmental Sensing with Plants and Plant Cells)

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