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Journal: Plant cell reports


Tomato has a relatively short growth cycle (fruit ready to pick within 65-85 days from planting) and a relatively high yield (the average for globe tomatoes is 3-9 kg fruit per plant rising to as much as 40 kg fruit per plant). Tomatoes also produce large amounts of important primary and secondary metabolites which can serve as intermediates or substrates for producing valuable new compounds. As a model crop, tomato already has a broad range of tools and resources available for biotechnological applications, either increased nutrients for health-promoting biofortified foods or as a production system for high-value compounds. These advantages make tomato an excellent chassis for the production of important metabolites. We summarize recent achievements in metabolic engineering of tomato and suggest new candidate metabolites which could be targets for metabolic engineering. We offer a scheme for how to establish tomato as a chassis for industrial-scale production of high-value metabolites.

Concepts: Metabolism, Plant, Annual plant, Fruit, Tomato, Vegetable, Eggplant, Berry


The first report presenting successful and efficient carrot genome editing using CRISPR/Cas9 system. Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated (Cas9) is a powerful genome editing tool that has been widely adopted in model organisms recently, but has not been used in carrot-a model species for in vitro culture studies and an important health-promoting crop grown worldwide. In this study, for the first time, we report application of the CRISPR/Cas9 system for efficient targeted mutagenesis of the carrot genome. Multiplexing CRISPR/Cas9 vectors expressing two single-guide RNA (gRNAs) targeting the carrot flavanone-3-hydroxylase (F3H) gene were tested for blockage of the anthocyanin biosynthesis in a model purple-colored callus using Agrobacterium-mediated genetic transformation. This approach allowed fast and visual comparison of three codon-optimized Cas9 genes and revealed that the most efficient one in generating F3H mutants was the Arabidopsis codon-optimized AteCas9 gene with up to 90% efficiency. Knockout of F3H gene resulted in the discoloration of calli, validating the functional role of this gene in the anthocyanin biosynthesis in carrot as well as providing a visual marker for screening successfully edited events. Most resulting mutations were small Indels, but long chromosome fragment deletions of 116-119 nt were also generated with simultaneous cleavage mediated by two gRNAs. The results demonstrate successful site-directed mutagenesis in carrot with CRISPR/Cas9 and the usefulness of a model callus culture to validate genome editing systems. Given that the carrot genome has been sequenced recently, our timely study sheds light on the promising application of genome editing tools for boosting basic and translational research in this important vegetable crop.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Mutation, Genomics, Model organism, Escherichia coli, Arabidopsis thaliana


Here, we show that Au SINE elements have strong associations with protein-coding genes in wheat. Most importantly Au SINE insertion within introns causes allelic variation and might induce intron retention. The impact of transposable elements (TEs) on genome structure and function is intensively studied in eukaryotes, especially in plants where TEs can reach up to 90% of the genome in some cases, such as in wheat. Here, we have performed a genome-wide in-silico analysis using the updated publicly available genome draft of bread wheat (T. aestivum), in addition to the updated genome drafts of the diploid donor species, T. urartu and Ae. tauschii, to retrieve and analyze a non-LTR retrotransposon family, termed Au SINE, which was found to be widespread in plant species. Then, we have performed site-specific PCR and realtime RT-PCR analyses to assess the possible impact of Au SINE on gene structure and function. To this end, we retrieved 133, 180 and 1886 intact Au SINE insertions from T. urartu, Ae. tauschii and T. aestivum genome drafts, respectively. The 1886 Au SINE insertions were distributed in the seven homoeologous chromosomes of T. aestivum, while ~ 67% of the insertions were associated with genes. Detailed analysis of 40 genes harboring Au SINE revealed allelic variation of those genes in the Triticum-Aegilops genus. In addition, expression analysis revealed that both regular transcripts and alternative Au SINE-containing transcripts were simultaneously amplified in the same tissue, indicating retention of Au SINE-containing introns. Analysis of the wheat transcriptome revealed that hundreds of protein-coding genes harbor Au SINE in at least one of their mature splice variants. Au SINE might play a prominent role in speciation by creating transcriptome variation.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Evolution, Organism, RNA, Species


Altered starch quality with full knockout of GBSS gene function in potato was achieved using CRISPR-Cas9 technology, through transient transfection and regeneration from isolated protoplasts. Site-directed mutagenesis (SDM) has shown great progress in introducing precisely targeted mutations. Engineered CRISPR-Cas9 has received increased focus compared to other SDM techniques, since the method is easily adapted to different targets. Here, we demonstrate that transient application of CRISPR-Cas9-mediated genome editing in protoplasts of tetraploid potato (Solanum tuberosum) yielded mutations in all four alleles in a single transfection, in up to 2 % of regenerated lines. Three different regions of the gene encoding granule-bound starch synthase (GBSS) were targeted under different experimental setups, resulting in mutations in at least one allele in 2-12 % of regenerated shoots, with multiple alleles mutated in up to 67 % of confirmed mutated lines. Most mutations resulted in small indels of 1-10 bp, but also vector DNA inserts of 34-236 bp were found in 10 % of analysed lines. No mutations were found in an allele diverging one bp from a used guide sequence, verifying similar results found in other plants that high homology between guide sequence and target region near the protospacer adjacent motif (PAM) site is essential. To meet the challenge of screening large numbers of lines, a PCR-based high-resolution fragment analysis method (HRFA) was used, enabling identification of multiple mutated alleles with a resolution limit of 1 bp. Full knockout of GBSS enzyme activity was confirmed in four-allele mutated lines by phenotypic studies of starch. One remaining wild-type (WT) allele was shown sufficient to maintain enough GBSS enzyme activity to produce significant amounts of amylose.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Mutation, Genotype, Allele, Evolution, Starch


New tools for the precise modification of crops genes are now available for the engineering of new ideotypes. A future challenge in this emerging field of genome engineering is to develop efficient methods for allele mining. Genome engineering tools are now available in plants, including major crops, to modify in a predictable manner a given gene. These new techniques have a tremendous potential for a spectacular acceleration of the plant breeding process. Here, we discuss how genetic diversity has always been the raw material for breeders and how they have always taken advantage of the best available science to use, and when possible, increase, this genetic diversity. We will present why the advent of these new techniques gives to the breeders extremely powerful tools for crop breeding, but also why this will require the breeders and researchers to characterize the genes underlying this genetic diversity more precisely. Tackling these challenges should permit the engineering of optimized alleles assortments in an unprecedented and controlled way.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Genotype, Allele, Evolution, Organism, Virus


CRISPR/Cas9 has evolved and transformed the field of biology at an unprecedented pace. From the initial purpose of introducing a site specific mutation within a genome of choice, this technology has morphed into enabling a wide array of molecular applications, including site-specific transgene insertion and multiplexing for the simultaneous induction of multiple cleavage events. Efficiency, specificity, and flexibility are key attributes that have solidified CRISPR/Cas9 as the genome-editing tool of choice by scientists from all areas of biology. Within the field of plant biology, several CRISPR/Cas9 technologies, developed in other biological systems, have been successfully implemented to probe plant gene function and to modify specific crop traits. It is anticipated that this trend will persist and lead to the development of new applications and modifications of the CRISPR technology, adding to an ever-expanding collection of genome-editing tools. We envision that these tools will bestow plant researchers with new utilities to alter genome complexity, engineer site-specific integration events, control gene expression, generate transgene-free edited crops, and prevent or cure plant viral disease. The successful implementation of such utilities will represent a new frontier in plant biotechnology.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Molecular biology, Biology, Organism, Species, Botany


The increasing burden of the world population on agriculture requires the development of more robust crops. Dissecting the basic biology that underlies plant development and stress responses will inform the design of better crops. One powerful tool for studying plants at the molecular level is the RNA-programmed genome editing system composed of a clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-encoded guide RNA and the nuclease Cas9. Here, some of the recent advances in CRISPR/Cas9 technology that have profound implications for improving the study of plant biology are described. These tools are also paving the way towards new horizons for biotechnologies and crop development.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Agriculture, Molecular biology, Biology, Plant, Botany, Fruit


One of the major problems regarding consumer acceptance of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is the possibility that their transgenes could have adverse effects on the environment and/or human health. Genome editing, represented by the CRISPR/Cas9 system, can efficiently achieve transgene-free gene modifications and is anticipated to generate a wide spectrum of plants. However, the public attitude against GMOs suggests that people will initially be unlikely to accept these plants. We herein explored the bottlenecks of consumer acceptance of transgene-free food crops developed by genome editing and made some recommendations. People should not pursue a zero-risk bias regarding such crops. Developers are encouraged to produce cultivars with a trait that would satisfy consumer needs. Moreover, they should carefully investigate off-target mutations in resultant plants and initially refrain from agricultural use of multiplex genome editing for better risk-benefit communication. The government must consider their regulatory status and establish appropriate regulations if necessary. The government also should foster communication between the public and developers. If people are informed of the benefits of genome editing-mediated plant breeding and trust in the relevant regulations, and if careful risk-benefit communication and sincere considerations for the right to know approach are guaranteed, then such transgene-free crops could gradually be integrated into society.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Agriculture, Organism, Horizontal gene transfer, Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified food


Transgenic Nicotiana benthamiana lines with constitutive expression of an Arabidopsis lectin receptor kinase gene ( LecRK - I.9 or LecRK - IX.1 ) show enhanced resistance to Phytophthora pathogens, demonstrating conserved gene functionality after interfamily transfer. In plants, cell surface receptors mediate the first layer of innate immunity against pathogenic microbes. In Arabidopsis several L-type lectin receptor kinases (LecRKs) were previously found to function as Phytophthora resistance components. In this study, we determined the functionality of Arabidopsis LecRK-I.9 or LecRK-IX.1 in Phytophthora resistance when transferred into the Solanaceous plant Nicotiana benthamiana. Multiple transgenic lines were generated for each LecRK gene and molecular analyses revealed variation in transgene copy number, transgene expression levels and LecRK protein accumulation. Infection assays showed that transgenic N. benthamiana plants expressing either Arabidopsis LecRK-I.9 or LecRK-IX.1 are more resistant to Phytophthora capsici and to Phytophthora infestans. These results demonstrate that Arabidopsis LecRK-I.9 and LecRK-IX.1 retained their Phytophthora resistance function when transferred into N. benthamiana. Therefore, these LecRKs have the potential to function as a complementary Phytophthora resistance resource in distantly related plant species next to the canonical Phytophthora resistance genes encoding nucleotide-binding leucine-rich repeat proteins.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Bacteria, Molecular biology, Organism


Vanadium compounds increased the content and release of distinct isoflavones in a Trifolium pratense suspension culture. Regarding transport-mechanism inhibitors, the process was mostly facilitated by ABC proteins and vesicular transport. The transport of isoflavones and other secondary metabolites is an important part of metabolism within plants and cultures in vitro regarding their role in defence against various abiotic and biotic stressors. This research focuses on the way how to increase production and exudation of isoflavones by application of chemical elicitor and the basic identification of their transport mechanisms across cell membranes. The release of five isoflavones (genistin, genistein, biochanin A, daidzein, and formononetin) into a nutrient medium was determined in a Trifolium pratense var. DO-8 suspension culture after two vanadium compound treatments and cultivation for 24 and 48 h. The NH4VO3 solution caused a higher concentration of isoflavones in the medium after 24 h. This increased content of secondary metabolites was subsequently suppressed by distinct transport-mechanism inhibitors. The transport of isoflavones in T. pratense was mostly affected by ABC inhibitors from the multidrug-resistance-associated protein subfamily, but the genistein concentration in the medium was lower after treatment with multidrug-resistance protein subfamily inhibitors. Brefeldin A, which blocks vesicular transport, also decreased the concentration of some isoflavones in the nutrient medium.