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Plant Physiol. 2019 Mar;179(3):943-957. doi: 10.1104/pp.18.01220. Epub 2019 Jan 24.

MoChlo: A Versatile, Modular Cloning Toolbox for Chloroplast Biotechnology.

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Department of Food Science, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996.
Center for Agricultural Synthetic Biology, Institute of Agriculture, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996.
Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996.
Elo Life Systems, Durham, North Carolina 27709.
Department of Food Science, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996


Plant synthetic biology is a rapidly evolving field with new tools constantly emerging to drive innovation. Of particular interest is the application of synthetic biology to chloroplast biotechnology to generate plants capable of producing new metabolites, vaccines, biofuels, and high-value chemicals. Progress made in the assembly of large DNA molecules, composing multiple transcriptional units, has significantly aided in the ability to rapidly construct novel vectors for genetic engineering. In particular, Golden Gate assembly has provided a facile molecular tool for standardized assembly of synthetic genetic elements into larger DNA constructs. In this work, a complete modular chloroplast cloning system, MoChlo, was developed and validated for fast and flexible chloroplast engineering in plants. A library of 128 standardized chloroplast-specific parts (47 promoters, 38 5' untranslated regions [5'UTRs], nine promoter:5'UTR fusions, 10 3'UTRs, 14 genes of interest, and 10 chloroplast-specific destination vectors) were mined from the literature and modified for use in MoChlo assembly, along with chloroplast-specific destination vectors. The strategy was validated by assembling synthetic operons of various sizes and determining the efficiency of assembly. This method was successfully used to generate chloroplast transformation vectors containing up to seven transcriptional units in a single vector (∼10.6-kb synthetic operon). To enable researchers with limited resources to engage in chloroplast biotechnology, and to accelerate progress in the field, the entire kit, as described, is available through Addgene at minimal cost. Thus, the MoChlo kit represents a valuable tool for fast and flexible design of heterologous metabolic pathways for plastid metabolic engineering.

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