A major factor limiting the expansion of human space exploration is the enormous logistical costs of launching and resupplying resources from Earth. Plants could play a critical role in providing food and precursors for manufacturing medicines and materials in long-duration missions to Mars. However, the absence of a significant ozone layer and low atmospheric pressure on Mars results in a higher surface flux of UV radiation, which potentially damages DNA, RNA, proteins, and generates oxidative stress in plants. Therefore, it will be essential to improve the photoprotection mechanisms that enhance plant survival.
This project aims to design strategies that endow plants with sunscreens that protect them from harmful UV effects in harsh planetary environments. The proposed solution is to construct a series of Biobricks with UVR8 and PAP1 Arabidopsis genes that allow GoldenBraid assembly of different transcriptional units to produce UV-resistant plants.