Untraceable CRISPR? New gene editing method modifies plants without leaving ‘foreign DNA’ footprint

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Image: Natural Society

Processes of traditional trait development in plants depend on genetic variations derived from spontaneous mutation or artificial random mutagenesis. Limited availability of desired traits in crossable relatives or failure to generate the wanted phenotypes by random mutagenesis led to develop innovative breeding methods that are truly cross-species and precise.

To this end, we devised novel methods of precise genome engineering that are characterized to use pre-assembled CRISPR/Cas9 ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex instead of using nucleic ands or Agrobacterium. We found that our methods successfully engineered plant genomes without leaving any foreign DNA footprint in the genomes …. [O]ur methods should help develop novel traits in crop plants in relatively short time with safe and precise way.

The possibility to edit plant genome in a DNA-free way raises the question of whether plants genetically edited with CRISPR–Cas9 fall within the scope of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) regulations. Many countries including the United States and Argentina designates CRISPR-edited plants as non-GMO if foreign DNA encoding the Cas9 has been cured from the edited plants through segregation processes. Designation as non-GMO seeds could let seed innovators avoid the costs involved in obtaining ‘de-regulation’ status of their GMOs.

Related article:  Viewpoint: Anti-Monsanto biopic 'Percy' tells misleading tale about GMOs and seed patents

With the community acceptance of the CRISPR–Cas9-edited plants as being equivalent to the seeds developed by conventional breeding programs greatly stimulate the seed developers especially small and medium sized companies to bring creative novel seeds relatively easy to market in shorter time. Novel seeds should include the plants with desirable traits, such as enhanced nutritional value, disease resistance, tolerance to abiotic stress, energy efficient architecture, and increased yield. This will eventually result in sustainable agriculture overall globally.

Read full, original article: DNA-free genome editing with preassembled CRISPR/Cas9 ribonucleoproteins in plants

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