With a goal of breeding resilient crops that are better able to withstand drought and disease, scientists have developed the first CRISPR-Cas9-based gene drive in plants.
While gene drive technology has been developed in insects to help stop the spread of vector-borne diseases such as malaria, researchers demonstrated the successful design of a CRISPR-Cas9-based gene drive that cuts and copies genetic elements in Arabidopsis plants.
Breaking from the traditional inheritance rules that dictate that offspring acquire genetic materials equally from each parent (Mendelian genetics), the new research uses CRISPR-Cas9 editing to transmit specific, targeted traits from a single parent in subsequent generations. Such genetic engineering could be used in agriculture to help plants defend against diseases to grow more productive crops. The technology also could help fortify plants against the impacts of climate change such as increased drought conditions in a warming world.
The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.
"This work defies the genetic constraints of sexual reproduction that an offspring inherits 50% of their genetic materials from each parent," said the senior author. "This work enables inheritance of both copies of the desired genes from only a single parent. The findings can greatly reduce the generations needed for plant breeding."
Developing superior crops through traditional genetic inheritance can be expensive and time consuming as genes are passed through multiple generations. Using the new active genetics technology based on CRISPR-Cas9, such genetic bias can be achieved much more quickly, the researchers say.
The first CRISPR/Cas9-based gene drive in plants
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