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Crop Biotech Update

A Rapid, Low-cost Protoplast Transfection System for Switchgrass

August 3, 2016

There has been resurgence in the use of protoplast systems for rapid screening of gene silencing and genome editing targets for siRNA, miRNA, and CRISPR technologies. For switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), it is necessary to develop plants with decreased cell wall recalcitrance to reduce processing costs in biofuel production. Hence, transgenic plants have been generated with altered cell wall chemistry, but with limited success.

Due to the cost, time, and effort required to screen transgenic plants, a protoplast system that can provide data at an early stage has potential to eliminate low performing candidate genes/targets prior to development of transgenic plants. However, protoplast isolation in switchgrass has proven costly, requiring expensive enzymes and high DNA quantities.

University of Tennessee researchers, led by Kellie P. Burris, reported a low-cost protoplast isolation system using a mesophyll culture approach and a cell suspension culture. Results from this work showed a significant cost reduction compared to previous methods of protoplast isolation in switchgrass. Furthermore, the efficiency of transformation was optimized despite a significant reduction in DNA quantity.

The method developed in this study paves the way for more efficient and cost-effective development of transgenic plants.

For more on this promising system, read the article in Plant Cell Reports.