You are probably familiar with the process of making a transgenic plant; gene identification, gene introduction into a plant cell via bombardment or Agrobacterium tumefaciens, selection of transformed tissue, and plant regeneration (as shown in the diagram from Teaching Tools in Plant Biology). Many of you have probably carried out the process, at least in Arabidopsis; thanks to the development of the floral-dip method by Clough and Bent in 1998, the painful tissue culture process has been eliminated from Arabidopsis transformation.
You probably also are aware that 1) for some model species, the tools and protocols developed 20 -30 years ago often continue to be used without substantial change, and 2) the transformability of each plant is quite species specific.
Even the hot new method of genome editing relies in substantial ways on the established protocols of gene introduction and tissue culture regeneration; although we may be able to edit a genome, regenerating a plant from a single cell can continue to be a major bottleneck.
In a new Perspective article published in The Plant Cell, Altpeter et al. critically examine the crop transformation toolkit. They examine each step in the pipeline, from gene introduction or gene editing to plant regeneration, and address where improvements can be made. Their conclusions and recommendations are shown in the diagram below and elaborated on in the article’s text.
Even if you rarely work with crop plants, this article provides an insightful overview of how the familiar tools of plant transformation came to be, as well as their strengths, limitations, and, importantly, opportunities for improvement. This also is a good article to incorporate into plant biology courses, to provide the sort of broad perspective that is so important for student learning.
Altpeter, F., Springer, N.M., Bartley, L.E., Blechl, A., Brutnell, T.P., Citovsky, V., Conrad, L., Gelvin, S.B., Jackson, D., Kausch, A.P., Lemaux, P.G., Medford, J.I., Orozo-Cardenas, M., Tricoli, D., VanEck, J., Voytas, D.F., Walbot, V., Wang, K., Zhang, Z.J. and Stewart, C. Neal. (2016). Advancing crop transformation in the era of genome editing. Plant Cell. In press.