Crop Biotech Update

UCR Scientists Use CRISPR to Alter Grapevine Killer

May 4, 2022

Photo Source: UC Riverside

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) reported their breakthrough in using CRISPR-Cas9 to modify glassy-winged sharpshooter (Homalodisca vitripennis), which is a deadly threat to vineyards. Their study is published in Scientific Reports.

The glassy-winged sharpshooter is a half-inch-long flying insect that feeds on grapevines and then transmits bacteria that cause Pierce's Disease. This is a growing problem for California's US$58 billion wine industry. The current control measures for such infection are the implementation of quarantines and the application of chemical sprays, which continues to become less effective.

To test if CRISPR works in the glassy-winged sharpshooter, they tried to knock out genes controlling the sharpshooters' eye color. They tested turning the insects' eyes white. In another experiment, they successfully turned the eyes cinnabar, a blood-red color. Then, the team demonstrated these eye color changes were permanent, and passed along to the offspring of the modified parents. After confirming that CRISPR works in these insects, they are now targeting the mouth parts of glassy-winged sharpshooter so they would be unable to pick up the bacteria that causes Pierce's Disease.

Read more from UCR and Scientific Reports.

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