Scientists develop a new approach to genetic modification of maize and other grains

Genetic modification is the direct manipulation of an organism’s genome using biotechnology. It is a set of technologies used to change the genetic makeup of cells, including the transfer of genes within and across species boundaries to produce improved or novel organisms. Genetically modified crops (GMCs, GM crops, or biotech crops) are plants used in agriculture the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques. In most cases, the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species. Examples in food crops include resistance to certain pests, diseases, or environmental conditions, reduction of spoilage, or resistance to chemical treatments (e.g. resistance to a herbicide), or improving the nutrient profile of the crop. Examples in non-food crops include production of pharmaceutical agents and other industrially useful goods, as well as for bio remediation. 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 (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.


Reference-The above post is edited from materials provided by American Society of Plant Biologists.

Edited by- Omkar Joshi.


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