Plant gene editing is usually carried out by delivering reagents such as Cas9 and sgRNAs to explants in culture. Edited cells are then induced to differentiate into whole plants by exposure to various hormones. Creating edited plants through tissue culture is often inefficient, requires considerable time, only works with limited species and genotypes and causes unintended changes to the genome and epigenome. We have been pursuing alternative approaches for plant gene editing that minimize or obviate the need for tissue culture. In one approach, we generate gene edited dicotyledonous plants through de novo meristem induction. Developmental regulators and gene editing reagents are delivered to somatic cells on whole plants. Meristems are induced that produce shoots with targeted DNA modifications, and gene edits are transmitted to the next generation. In a second approach, we use RNA viruses to deliver sgRNAs through infection to transgenic plants that express Cas9. The sgRNAs are augmented with sequences that promote cell-to-cell mobility and movement into the meristem. Gene edited shoots are thus generated that transmit gene edits to the next generation. Because both approaches minimize the need for tissue culture, they promise to help overcome this bottleneck in plant gene-editing.
Dr. Dan Voytas is a Professor in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development and the Director of the Center for Precision Plant Genomics at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Voytas graduated from Harvard College in 1984 and received his Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1990. He conducted postdoctoral research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine where he was a fellow of the Life Science Research Foundation. Prior to joining the University of Minnesota, Dr. Voytas was a professor at Iowa State University (1992-2008). Dr. Voytas is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Specializing in molecular biology and genetics, Dr. Voytas’ research focuses on genome modification using nucleases that recognize specific DNA sequences. In 2005, he co-founded the Zinc Finger Consortium, a group of academic scientists focused on creating open-source platforms for engineering zinc finger nucleases for targeted mutagenesis. More recently, his laboratory developed a superior class of sequence-specific nucleases – Transcription Activator-Like Effector Nucleases (TALENs) – which was heralded by Science magazine as one of the top ten scientific breakthroughs of 2012. Dr. Voytas’ lab is currently optimizing methods for efficiently making targeted genome modifications in a variety of plant species to advance basic biology and develop new crop varieties.
In addition to his position at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Voytas advises agricultural biotechnology companies on the use of new methods of genome engineering for crop improvement and serves as Chief Science Officer for Calyxt.
For details of his research and recent publication, please visit HERE
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