University of Maryland scientists have developed CRISPR-Combo, a new tool for editing several genes in plants while simultaneously modifying the expression of other genes. This breakthrough, published in Nature Plants, allows genetic engineering combinations that work together to enhance the functionality and breeding of new crops.
“As a proof of concept, we showed that we could knock out gene A and upregulate, or activate, gene B successfully, without accidentally crossing over and knocking out gene B or upregulating gene A,” said Yiping Qi, one of the authors of the study. They edited a gene that makes Arabidopsis more resistant to herbicides while activating a gene that causes early flowering, which produces seeds more quickly. This resulted in a herbicide resistant Arabidopsis plant that produced eight generations in one year instead of just four.
In the next leg of their study, the team confirmed how CRISPR-Combo could improve efficiency in plant breeding using tissue cultures from poplar trees. They initially edited a few traits in poplar cells, then activated three genes that promote plant tissue regeneration. Their findings confirmed that CRISPR-Combo leads to a highly efficient genome editing process.
Pan, C., Li, G., Malzahn, A.A. et al. Boosting plant genome editing with a versatile CRISPR-Combo system. Nat. Plants 8, 513–525 (2022).
Source: Crop Biotech Update