Wolffia, a minimalist plant and synthetic biology chassis

Eric Lam, Todd P. Michael

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


A highly simplified species for genome engineering would facilitate rational design of a synthetic plant. A candidate species is the aquatic, non-grass monocot wolffia (Wolffia australiana) in the Lemnaceae family. Commonly known as watermeal, wolffia is a rootless ball of several thousand cells the size of a pinhead and the fastest growing plant known on Earth. Its extreme morphological reduction is coupled to transposon-mediated streamlining of its transcriptome, which represents a core set of nonredundant protein coding genes. Despite its body plan and transcriptome being highly specialized for continuous growth, wolffia retains cell types relevant to higher plants. Systems level studies with this species could enable the creation of a defined biological chassis for synthetic plant construction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)430-439
Number of pages10
JournalTrends in Plant Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Plant Science


  • diurnal regulation
  • duckweed
  • minimalist plant
  • reduced morphology
  • synthetic biology


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