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CRISPR Scissors Utilized to Break Yield Barrier in Crops
Posted by: Prof. Dr. M. Raupp (IP Logged)
Date: September 30, 2017 06:59AM

Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have tapped genome
editing to improve agricultural crops. Using tomato as an example, they
usedCRSIPR-Cas9 technology to rapidly generate variants of the plant that
display a broad continuum of three separate, agriculturally important
traits: fruit size, branching architecture, and overall plant shape --
components that determine plant yield. The method is designed to work in all
food, feed, and fuel crops, including the staples rice, maize, sorghum, and

The team used CRISPR "scissors" to make multiple cuts within three tomato
genome sequences known as promoters - areas of DNA near associated genes
which help regulate when, where, and at what level these "yield" genes are
active during growth. The scientists were able to induce a wide range of
changes in each of the three targeted traits.

By using CRISPR to mutate regulatory sequences, the CSHL team found that a
much subtler impact on quantitative traits is possible. Fine-tuning gene
expression rather than deleting or inactivating the proteins they encode is
most likely to benefit commercial agriculture because of the flexibility
such genetic variation provides for improving yield traits.

CSHL Professor Zachary Lippman, who led the research says, "Traditional
breeding involves great time and effort to adapt beneficial variants of
relevant genes to the best varieties, which must continuously be improved
every year. Our approach can help bypass this constraint by directly
generating and selecting for the most desirable variants controlling gene
activity in the context of other natural mutations that benefit breeding. We
can now work with the native DNA and enhance what nature has provided, which
we believe can help break yield barriers."


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