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Gene editing tools may help the main game in crop breeding

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There is real potential for using new targeted chromosomal editing tools to improve crop performance according to a recent Plant Genome article:
Advances in clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) technology have allowed targeted recombination in specific DNA sequences in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). My objective was to determine if the selection gains from targeted recombination are large enough to warrant the development of targeted recombination technology in plants. Genomewide marker effects for quantitative traits in two maize (Zea mays L.) experiments were used to identify targeted recombination points that would maximize the per-chromosome genetic gains in a given cross. With nontargeted recombination in the intermated B73 × Mo17 population, selecting the best out of 180 recombinant inbreds led to a 7.1% gain for testcross yield. Having one targeted recombination on each of the 10 maize chromosomes led to a predicted gain of 15.3% for yield. Targeted recombination therefore led to a predicted relative efficiency (RETargeted) of (0.153 ÷ 0.071) = 212% of targeted recombination compared with nontargeted recombination. For the five other traits in the intermated B73 × Mo17 population and for four traits in 45 other maize crosses, the RETargeted values ranged from 105 to 600%. The targeted recombination points differed among traits and crosses. Predicted gains increased when the number of targeted recombinations per chromosome increased from one to two. Overall, the results suggested that targeted recombination could double the selection gains for quantitative traits in maize and that the development of targeted recombination technology is worthwhile. Empirical experiments with current marker-assisted breeding procedures are needed to validate the per-chromosome predicted gains.

See also an earlier post about wheat breeding about another recent report that supports this concept.


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