Researchers at the University of Minnesota and Massachusetts General Hospital have used a genome engineering tool they developed to make a model crop plant herbicide-resistant without significant changes to its DNA.
"It's still a GMO [Genetically Modified Organism] but the modification was subtle," said Daniel Voytas, lead author and director of the U of M Center for Genome Engineering. "We made a slight change in the sequence of the plant's own DNA rather than adding foreign DNA."
The new approach has the potential to help scientists modify plants to produce food, fuel and fiber sustainably while minimizing concerns about genetically modified organisms
For the study, the researchers created a customized enzyme called a zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) to change single genes in tobacco plant cells. The altered cells were then cultured to produce mature plants that survived exposure to herbicides.
The research will be published online by Nature on April 29.
"This is the first real advance in technology to genetically modify plants since foreign DNA was introduced into plant chromosomes in the early 1980s," Voytas said. "It could become a revolutionary tool for manipulating plant, animal and human genomes."
Zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) are engineered enzymes that bind to specific DNA sequences and introduce modifications at or near the binding site. The standard way to genetically modify an organism is to introduce foreign genes into a genome without knowing where they will be incorporated. The random nature of the standard method has given rise to concerns about potential health and environmental hazards of genetically modified organisms.
Voytas is a co-founder of the Zinc Finger Consortium http://www.zincfingers.org), which developed a do-it-yourself strategy for academic researchers. The consortium is led by co-author J. Keith Joung, a pathologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an associate professor at Harvard University. The consortium published its method (called Oligomerized Pool Engineering, or OPEN) in the July 2008 issue of Molecular Cell. Nature published a perspective feature on OPEN and a commercial strategy in September 2008.
Voytas' lab used ZFNs created by the OPEN method to modify the tobacco cells to make them herbicide resistant. According to Voytas, OPEN ZFNs can be used to improve the nutrition of crop plants, make plants more amenable to conversion into biofuels, and help plants adapt to climate change.
"The world is going to turn increasingly to plants to solve lots of problems. Now we have a new set of tools to help." Voytas said.
Voytas' next steps will be to apply the technology to Arabidopsis thaliana, a model plant, and rice, the world's most important food crop. He is also adapting algae for biofuel production.
"The technology is ready for prime time," Voytas said. "There is no scientific reason it can't be applied to crop plants now to improve agricultural output and practices."
Voytas is a professor in the department of genetics, cell biology and development, which is a joint department of the College of Biological Sciences and the Medical School.
Patty Mattern | EurekAlert!
Modern genetic sequencing tools give clearer picture of how corals are related
17.08.2017 | University of Washington
The irresistible fragrance of dying vinegar flies
16.08.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
17.08.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy