One challenge to improving wheat genetically has been due to the complex genetic mechanisms that go on with wheat DNA. A wheat cell has six copies of its seven chromosomes (42 chromosomes total).
Not only in the amount of DNA daunting, but the multiple copies of one gene make genetic manipulation very tricky.
CRISPR-Cas9, the DNA editing technology that is changing the face of genetic engineering, can alleviate this issue. How? Because it has what is called multiplex genome editing capacity. This means that many genes can be altered simultaneously and beneficial modifications in multiple genes can be made at the same time.
In a new study, mutations in all three copies of the gene TaGW2 resulted in an increase in thousand grain weight, grain area, grain width, and grain length.
The group went on to show that these mutations are heritable and were edited by CRISPR- Cas9 in the future generations of wheat by crossing the wheat plants with the gene targeting materials with wheat lines expressing the CRISPR-Cas9 materials.
This is an exciting demonstration of gene editing activity in wheat that is passed down from one generation to the next and may provide a useful tool for improving wheat in the future.
Editor’s note: Read the full study
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