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Applications submitted for new field trials with genome-edited maize
Posted by: Prof. Dr. M. Raupp (IP Logged)
Date: January 12, 2022 10:26AM

*In early January, VIB submitted applications to conduct 3 field trials
with genome-edited maize. Observations in the greenhouse showed that the
modified plants are more resistant to climate stress or easier to
digest. In collaboration with the Flanders Research Institute for
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO), VIB would like to confirm their
findings in real cultivation conditions.
*To make plants more resilient to current climate changes, diseases, and
to improve their interaction with the environment, you need to know the
mechanisms that make the plant grow. At the VIB-UGent Center for Plant
Systems Biology, research is being conducted into the molecular
processes that drive plant growth and development. When scientists
understand those processes, targeted changes can be made to try to
adjust plant growth.

*Thanks to the new gene-editing technique CRISPR-Cas9, the plant's
genetic material can be modified with high precision. Important is to
examine the effect of the genetic changes on the life cycle of the
plant. In doing so, both normal and stress conditions are simulated in
the greenhouse while plant development is monitored. While the findings
from the greenhouse represent a plantā??s growth capabilities, a field
trial provides a more complete picture of the resilience of the modified
plants when exposed to actual weather conditions.

One of the consequences of climate change is global warming, which is
causing a higher frequency of sustained heatwaves, periods of drought,
and more extreme weather patterns. Prof. Hilde Nelissen's research group
aims to make maize resistant to prolonged drought. When plants
experience drought, the hereditary material - the DNA - is folded into a
compact form, causing growth to be paused. Prof. Nelissen and her team
found that turning off a structural component that helps the folding of
DNA leads to less compact and therefore more active DNA. As a result,
maize plants show improved growth in the greenhouse when they experience
drought. A field trial must shed light on whether this genetic
modification also benefits growth and yield under varying weather

Prolonged periods of heat, increased exposure to UV rays and polluting
metals, cause DNA damage to plants. In response to DNA damage, the plant
slows the cell cycle - the process by which plant cells expand and
subsequently divide. Since plant growth is a direct result of growing
cells, chronic DNA stress leads to smaller plants and reduced yield. The
team of Prof. Lieven De Veylder wants to test in their field trial if
the lack of a negative regulator of the cell cycle makes maize plants
more resistant to DNA damage related to environmental stress (field
trial number 2). Greenhouse experiments already showed that the modified
maize grew significantly better compared to unmodified plants when
exposed to environmental stresses that induce DNA damage.

VIB - Applications submitted for new field trials with genome-edited


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