Scientists develop the first CRISPR / Cas9-based gene drive in plants
New technology for growing more resilient crops to improve agricultural yields and withstand the effects of climate change.
With the aim of growing resilient crops that can better withstand drought and disease, scientists at the University of California at San Diego have developed the first CRISPR-Cas9-based gene drive in plants.
While gene drive technology was developed in insects to stop the spread of vector-borne diseases such as malaria, researchers in Professor Yunde Zhao’s laboratory, along with colleagues at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, demonstrated the successful design of a CRISPR-Cas9 – based gene drive that cuts and copies genetic elements Arabidopsis Plants.
The new research breaks with the traditional rules of inheritance that dictate that offspring acquire genetic material from each parent equally (Mendelian genetics) and uses CRISPR-Cas9 editing to carry over specific, targeted traits from a single parent into subsequent generations. Such genetic engineering could be used in agriculture to help plants ward off disease in order to grow more productive crops. The technology could also help protect crops against the effects of climate change, such as increasing drought conditions in a warming world.
The research, led by postdoctoral fellow Tao Zhang and PhD student Michael Mudget in Zhao’s laboratory, is published in the journal Nature communication.
“This work contradicts the genetic limitations of sexual reproduction that an offspring inherits 50% of its genetic material from each parent,” said Zhao, a member of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology of the Department of Biological Sciences. “This work enables both copies of the desired genes to be inherited from a single parent. The findings can greatly reduce the generations required for plant breeding. “
The study is the latest development from researchers at the Tata Institute for Genetics and Society (TIGS) at UC San Diego, based on a new technology called “active genetics”“With the potential to affect population inheritance in a wide variety of applications.
Developing superior crops through traditional genetic inheritance can be costly and time consuming because genes are passed on over several generations. With the new active genetics technology based on CRISPR-Cas9, such genetic distortions can be achieved much faster, say the researchers.
“I am pleased that this success has been achieved by Gene Drive, now achieved by scientists linked to TIGS in plants, extending the generality of this work previously demonstrated at UC San Diego to insects and mammals,” said Suresh Subramani. Global Director of TIGS. “This progress will revolutionize plant and plant breeding and help address the global problem of food security.”
Reference: “Selective inheritance of target genes from only one parent of sexually reproduced F1 offspring in Arabidopsis“By Tao Zhang, Michael Mudgett, Ratnala Rambabu, Bradley Abramson, Xinhua Dai, Todd P. Michael and Yunde Zhao, June 22, 2021, Nature communication.
DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-021-24195-5
Co-authors of the paper are: Tao Zhang, Michael Mudgett, Ratnala Rambabu, Bradley Abramson, Xinhua Dai, Todd Michael and Yunde Zhao.
The research was funded by TIGS-UC San Diego and an educational grant from the National Institutes of Health.