Crop Biotech Update

BREEDIT Bridges Gap Between Conventional Breeding and Gene Editing Techniques

September 14, 2022

Scientists at VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology and Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO) developed a fast gene discovery pipeline in maize to advance breeding programs for the benefit of humanity and the environment.

Conventional plant breeding involves crossing varieties with the desired traits in their genome. Traits such as growth and yield are often controlled by a complex gene network. To achieve significant growth improvement, breeders need to combine multiple growth-stimulating properties. Molecular biology helps link agronomic traits to specific genes rather than genomic regions, narrowing down the genomic targets for breeding.

The VIB-UGent and ILVO team developed BREEDIT, a support platform for breeding using innovative gene editing techniques. It is a pipeline in which CRISPR-mediated gene editing of multiple genes simultaneously is combined with different crossing schemes to identify the key genes involved in trait enhancement. The BREEDIT team developed a strategy to edit up to 60 genes in all possible combinations. Introducing 12 gRNAs at once into a Cas9-expressing parent generates a multiplex gene-edited maize plant. Implementing a crossing scheme with plants containing a different set of gRNAs leads to a diverse collection of edited maize plants that can be screened for improved agronomic traits.

Prof. Dirk Inzé, BREEDIT project lead (VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology) said, “BREEDIT provides us with a tool to quickly identify promising gene edits to improve agronomic traits in crops. Especially for complex traits such as yield, gene editing-assisted breeding will become increasingly important to keep up with the changing environment.”

For more details, read the article in VIB News.

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