Scientists develop a new approach to genetic modification of maize and other grains
Genetic modification of plants might be controversial in commercial applications, but it is undeniably useful for research purposes. Despite years of effort, it has been remarkably difficult to develop efficient methods for transformation of grain crops. Work published in The Plant Cell reports a new method to genetically modify maize and other grains.
Although the commercialization of transgenic, or “genetically modified”, plants has stirred widespread controversy, much research remains focused on improving techniques to create such plants. As people familiar with the controversy likely know, transgenic technology allows breeders to add genes for desirable traits to valuable breeding materials. However, transgenic plants are also widely used in basic scientific research.
The ability to add a single gene to a plant allows researchers to explore what that gene does, for instance. Despite years of effort, it has been remarkably difficult to develop efficient methods for transformation (i.e., genetic modification) of grain crops. The preferred methods generally involve infecting tissue with Agrobacterium – a bacterium that naturally transfers DNA to its host genome – and then stimulating that tissue to regenerate into whole plants. However, Agrobacterium infects only a narrow range of grain cultivars, and many cultivars are recalcitrant to regeneration. A paper published in The Plant Cell reports a breakthrough in transformation technology that greatly expands the range of cultivars and species that can be transformed.
A team of researchers from DuPont added so-called morphogenic genes – known from basic research to promote the production of embryonic tissue – to the other genes being transformed (in this case to express green fluorescent protein as a marker of transformation). When they did so, transformation rates increased for a large number of maize cultivars – in many cases going from essentially no transformation to rates high enough for efficient use in commercial and research applications. The technique also worked in sorghum, rice, and sugarcane. This work extends the range of species, cultivars, and tissues that can be used for efficient transformation and is a beautiful example of what can be accomplished by combining basic research, technical expertise, and knowledge of practical problems facing mainstream applications.
Transformation of a maize leaf segment. Left: green fluorescent tissue on leaf segments from maize seedlings.
Middle: plants begin to regenerate from transformed tissue. Right: leafderived plants (right). (Photo credit: Ning Wang).
Nancy R. Hofmann, PhD firstname.lastname@example.org
Science Editor, The Plant Cell
Full citation: Lowe, K., Wu, E., Wang, N., Hoerster, G., Hastings, C., Cho, M.-J., Scelonge, C., Lenderts, B., Chamberlin, M., Cushatt, J., Wang, L., Ryan, L., Khan, T., Chow-Yiu, J., Hua, W., Yu, M., Banh, J., Bao, Z., Brink, K., Igo, E., Rudrappa, B., Shamseer, P.M., Wes Bruce, W., Newman, L., Shen, B., Zheng, P., Bidney, D., Falco, C., Register, J., Zhao, Z.-Y., Xu, D., Jones, T. and Gordon-Kamm, W. (2016). Morphogenic Regulators Babyboom and Wuschel Improve Monocot Transformation. Plant Cell. doi: 10.1105/tpc.16.00124.
In Brief Article describing the work: Hofmann, N.R. (2016) A Breakthrough in Monocot Transformation
Methods. Plant Cell. doi:10.1105/tpc.16.00696.
Publication date: September 6, 2016 at http://www.plantcell.org/content/early/2016/09/06/tpc.16.00124.abstract
About the researchers: To arrange an interview with Dr. William Gordon-Kamm of DuPont Pioneer in Johnston, IA, USA, please contact Susan Mantey, DuPont Pioneer media relations manager, at email@example.com or 614-902-0836.
About The Plant Cell: Published monthly by ASPB, The Plant Cell (http://www.plantcell.org/) is the highest-ranking primary research journal in plant biology. The Plant Cell publishes novel research in plant biology, especially in the areas of cellular biology, molecular biology, genetics, development, and evolution. The primary criteria for publication are that the article provides new insight that is of broad interest to plant biologists, not only to specialists, and that the presentation of results is appropriate for a wide audience. Follow The Plant Cell on Facebook and on Twitter @ThePlantCell.
About ASPB: ASPB is a professional scientific society, headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, devoted to the advancement of the plant sciences worldwide. With a membership of some 4500 plant scientists from throughout the United States and more than 50 other nations, the Society publishes two of the most widely cited plant science journals: The Plant Cell and Plant Physiology. For more information about ASPB, please visit http://www.aspb.org/. Also follow ASPB on Facebook at Facebook.com/myASPB and on Twitter @ASPB
Photo credit: Ning Wang. Restrictions: Use for noncommercial, educational purposes is granted without written permission. Please include a citation and acknowledge ASPB as copyright holder. For all other uses, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keywords: Corn, maize, grain, transgenic, genetically modified, plant biology, plant science, agriculture, crop plants, GMO