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Crop Biotech Update

Improved CRISPR-Cas9 Version Knocks Out Multiple Plant Genes at Once

March 24, 2021

Researchers at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB) have developed an improved version of the gene editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 with the ability to knock out up to 12 genes in plants in a single blow. Until now, this had only been possible for single or small groups of genes. The method makes it easier to investigate the interaction of various genes.

The scientists built on the work of biologist Dr. Sylvestre Marillonnet who developed an optimized building block for the CRISPR-Cas9 system at IPB. This building block helps to produce significantly more Cas9 enzyme in plants, which acts as a scissor for the genetic material," explains plant geneticist Dr. Johannes Stuttmann from the Institute of Biology at MLU. The researchers added up to 24 different guide RNAs which guide the scissor enzyme to the desired locations in the genetic material.

The approach worked when it was used in experiments on thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) and Nicotiana benthamiana. Up to eight genes could be switched off simultaneously in the tobacco plants while, in the thale cress, up to twelve genes could be switched off in some cases. According to Stuttmann, this is a major progress. "As far as I know, our group has been the first to successfully address so many target genes at once. This may make it possible to overcome the redundancy of genes," he added.

For more details, read the article on the MLU website.

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