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Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Evaluate the Use of CRISPR-Cas9 on Date Palm

November 22, 2017

Various GE techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9 have been successfully employed for various crop plants including fruit trees. CRISPR-Cas9 holds great potential in GE due to their simplicity, competency, and versatility over other GE techniques. However, no such genetic improvement has been developed in date palm, an important fruit crop in Oasis agriculture.

The availability of the date palm full genome sequence opened up a new door for improvement of date palm through GE and genetic manipulation. High salinity, extreme drought regimes, and blazing heat are major abiotic stresses affecting date palm. Moreover, biotic stresses are also a major worry for date palm. Developing a high yielding, resistant and good fruit quality cultivar is imperative but demands a stringent, comprehensive and reliable methodology.

However, several factors should be taken into account to fully apply CRISPR to date palm breeding. This includes designing the sgRNA to prevent off-target mutations as well as the CRISPR-Cas9 cassette delivery method into date palm cells, both of which are highly significant for the program to be successful. Date palm also has some genetic characteristics that may affect the applicability of CRISPR-Cas9, such as its outcrossing nature. This phenomenon brings high allelic heterozygosity, polymorphism, and thus, genetic instability to date palm.

The future application of CRISPR-Cas9 in date palm will not only address the basic biological questions but will definitely reduce the concerns of common people due to its non-GM nature.

For more on this review, read the full article in Frontiers in Plant Science.