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Crop Biotech Update

Challenges in Genome Editing of Sugarcane

December 1, 2016

Genome editing opens unique opportunities for plant breeders to enhance crop production. The advent of RNA-guided engineered nucleases, such as CRISPR/Cas9 system holds great potential since it is simple and effective. CRISPR/Cas9 system has already been successful in several crop plants. However, the use of this technique is in its infant stage in sugarcane (Saccharum sp.).

The study of Chakravarthi Mohan from the Federal University of Sao Carlos in Brazil, reviews the use of CRISPR/Cas9 system in the improvement of sugarcane. To date, the only report on genome editing on sugarcane is about the reduction of lignin content to make it suitable for biofuel production.

One requirement for genome editing is the availability of genomic resources to design specific gRNAs and target genes with known functions. However, the sugarcane genome is not yet deciphered and the genomic resources are limited in sugarcane. Furthermore, the functions of over 10,000 sugarcane coding genes are yet to be discovered.

This study also discusses other challenges, including large genome size, polyploidy, low transformation efficiency, transgene silencing, and lack of screening techniques that may hinder genome editing in sugarcane.

For more information on this study, read the article in Frontiers in Plant Science.