Aug 9, 2018New breeding technique to be used to fight late blight
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Albany, California, say they have found a way to streamline the process that scientists use to insert multiple genes into a crop plant, which will make it easier and more reliable to breed a variety of crops with improved traits.
“Making genetic improvements that were difficult or impossible before will be much easier because we can now insert not just one or two genes, but multiple genes, into a plant in a way that will lead to predictable outcomes,” said Roger Thilmony, an ARS molecular biologist in Albany.
A paper describing the research by the ARS team was published in the August issue of “The Plant Journal.”
The GAANTRY gene stacking technology will be freely available to anyone interested, and ARS said a commercial firm is planning to use it to introduce multiple genes into potatoes to make them more resistant to late blight.
“We have struggled to put multiple late blight resistance genes into potatoes for years. They are very long, complex genes, and with existing technologies it’s been extremely difficult. But the GAANTRY technology will help us tremendously,” said Craig Richael, a director of research and development for J.R. Simplot.
Over the years, scientists have modified the genetics of soybeans, corn and other crop plants to develop varieties that tolerate specific herbicides and resist insect pests. But those traits were controlled by one or two genes, and in most crop plants, important traits such as cold and drought tolerance, yield and seed production are almost always controlled by multiple genes. Inserting more than two or three genes into the same site on a plant chromosome has been notoriously difficult, ARS said.
The new technique stabilizes large “stacks” of DNA needed for conferring key traits, allowing researchers to precisely insert suites of genes.
“Before this, assembling 10 genes to insert into a new line would be difficult or impossible, but this technology basically stabilizes the stack and makes for results that are more stable and much easier to predict,” Thilmony said.
The full report is available in “The Plant Journal.”