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Crop Biotech Update

Experts Use Viruses for Transgene-free Gene Editing in Plants

June 10, 2020

Nature Plants reports a fundamental study that eliminates a transgenic approach in gene editing. Researchers at the University of California Davis and the University of Minnesota collaborated in the study which used viruses as delivery vehicles to induce genetic mutations directly in plants.

Most plant biology research on gene editing uses Agrobacterium to mediate gene transfer via the CRISPR-Cas9 system. In such cases, genetic mutation is achieved, but the transgene remains unless it is segregated away.

"Since the virus we used is an RNA virus, it's not going to integrate into the genome," said UC Davis Professor of Plant Biology Savithramma Dinesh-Kumar. "When the seeds are formed, they're completely virus-free, so you don't have any footprint of the things you put in but you introduced the desired mutation."

The next step of the team is to find out how to manipulate the viruses to carry the enzyme used to cut and edit the plant's genome and single guide RNA together. Once this mystery is solved, it may lead to the development of a new system to breed better crops.

Read more details from UC Davis.

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