Each GenoCon Contest focuses on a specific synthetic biology problem, and provides participants with a virtual laboratory (built on semantic web technology) for designing genetic solutions to the challenge problem. The GenoCon 2010 challenge problem was to develop a system for eliminating airborne formaldehyde in a model plant system, by using 2,000 base-pairs of synthetic DNA or less.
Of the 66 submissions, 6 contestant designs (along with several controls and researcher designed sequences) were constructed and tested for growth in the presence of different concentrations of formaldehyde and at different growth stages by the RIKEN Plant Science Center.
To evaluate the sequence designs, we first synthesized DNA fragments and transformed them into Arabidopsis. Then we measured for formaldehyde tolerance – the ability of the transformant Arabidopsis to grow of under various formaldehyde concentrations in their media.
Since formaldehyde causes plant damage, transformant plants that can detoxify formaldehyde must show stronger growth than the wild type plants that were used as controls. After the experiments, almost all transformant plants showed better growth than the wild type control plants, so we confirmed that most of the designs passed this challenge of our assignment.
GenoCon scored the success of each design from the experimental results, and the GenoCon comittee made a comprehensive review and awarded winners in multiple categories.