CRISPR-Cas technology has raised considerable interest among plant scientists, both in basic science and in plant breeding. Presently, the generation of random mutations at a predetermined site of the genome is well mastered, just like the targeted insertion of transgenes, although both remain restricted to species or genotypes amenable for plant transformation. On the other hand, true genome editing, i.e. the deliberate replacement of one or several nucleotides of the genome in a predetermined fashion, is limited to some rather particular examples that generally concern genes allowing positive selection, for example tolerance to herbicides. Therefore, further technological developments are necessary to fully exploit the potential of genome editing in enlarging the gene pool beyond the natural variability available in a given species. In principle, the technology can be applied to any quality related, agronomical or ecological trait, under the condition of upstream knowledge on the genes to be targeted and the precise modifications necessary to improve alleles. Published proof of concepts concern a wide range of agronomical traits, the most frequent being disease resistance, herbicide tolerance and the biochemical composition of harvested products. The regulatory status of the plants obtained by CRISPR-Cas technology raises numerous questions, in particular with regard to the plants that carry in their genomes the punctual modifications caused by the presence of the Cas9 nuclease but not the nuclease itself. Without clarification by the competent authorities, CRISPR-Cas technology would continue to be a powerful tool in functional genomics, but its potential in plant breeding would remain untapped.
Potato Research – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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