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Breakthrough in genetic modification of grains

Scientists develop a new approach to genetic modification of maize and other grains

Date:
September 12, 2016
Source:
American Society of Plant Biologists
Summary:
Genetic modification of plants might be controversial in commercial applications, but it is undeniably useful for research purposes. Despite years of effort, it has been remarkably difficult to develop efficient methods for transformation of grain crops. New work reports on a method to genetically modify maize and other grains.
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Looking down a corn row.
Credit: © bmargaret / Fotolia

Although the commercialization of transgenic, or "genetically modified," plants has stirred widespread controversy, much research remains focused on improving techniques to create such plants. As people familiar with the controversy likely know, transgenic technology allows breeders to add genes for desirable traits to valuable breeding materials. However, transgenic plants are also widely used in basic scientific research. The ability to add a single gene to a plant allows researchers to explore what that gene does, for instance.

Despite years of effort, it has been remarkably difficult to develop efficient methods for transformation (i.e., genetic modification) of grain crops. The preferred methods generally involve infecting tissue with Agrobacterium -- a bacterium that naturally transfers DNA to its host genome -- and then stimulating that tissue to regenerate into whole plants. However, Agrobacterium infects only a narrow range of grain cultivars, and many cultivars are recalcitrant to regeneration. A paper published in The Plant Cell reports a breakthrough in transformation technology that greatly expands the range of cultivars and species that can be transformed.

A team of researchers from DuPont added so-called morphogenic genes -- known from basic research to promote the production of embryonic tissue -- to the other genes being transformed (in this case to express green fluorescent protein as a marker of transformation). When they did so, transformation rates increased for a large number of maize cultivars -- in many cases going from essentially no transformation to rates high enough for efficient use in commercial and research applications. The technique also worked in sorghum, rice and sugarcane. This work extends the range of species, cultivars and tissues that can be used for efficient transformation and is a beautiful example of what can be accomplished by combining basic research, technical expertise, and knowledge of practical problems facing mainstream applications.


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Materials provided by American Society of Plant Biologists. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Keith Lowe, Emily Wu, Ning Wang, George Hoerster, Craig Hastings, Myeong-Je Cho, Chris Scelonge, Brian Lenderts, Mark Chamberlin, Josh Cushatt, Lijuan Wang, Larisa Ryan, Tanveer Khan, Julia Chow-Yiu, Wei Hua, Maryanne Yu, Jenny Banh, Zhongmeng Bao, Kent Brink, Elizabeth Igo, Bhojaraja Rudrappa, P.M. Shamseer, Wes Bruce, Lisa Newman, Bo Shen, Peizhong Zheng, Dennis Bidney, S Carl Falco, James C RegisterIII, Zuo-Yu Zhao, Deping Xu, Todd J Jones, William James Gordon-Kamm. Morphogenic Regulators Baby boom and Wuschel Improve Monocot Transformation. The Plant Cell, 2016; tpc.00124.2016 DOI: 10.1105/tpc.16.00124

Cite This Page:

American Society of Plant Biologists. "Breakthrough in genetic modification of grains: Scientists develop a new approach to genetic modification of maize and other grains." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 September 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160912161038.htm>.
American Society of Plant Biologists. (2016, September 12). Breakthrough in genetic modification of grains: Scientists develop a new approach to genetic modification of maize and other grains. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 28, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160912161038.htm
American Society of Plant Biologists. "Breakthrough in genetic modification of grains: Scientists develop a new approach to genetic modification of maize and other grains." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160912161038.htm (accessed May 28, 2017).

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