GM crops & food

CRISPRing into the woods.

PMID 26357840


The CRISPR/Cas9 technology is a welcome breakthrough for genome editing, owing to its precision, efficiency, versatility and ease of adoption. We recently reported the first application of CRISPR/Cas9 for biallelic mutations in stably transformed Populus, extending the species range of this powerful technology to woody perennials. An underappreciated obstacle in genome editing of outcrossing species is the frequent occurrence of sequence polymorphisms that can render CRISPR/Cas9 unproductive. We discuss experimental evidence as well as genome-wide computational analysis to demonstrate the sensitivity of CRISPR/Cas9 to allelic heterozygosity, and highlight tools and strategies that can help deal with such sequence polymorphisms. With its specificity, CRISPR/Cas9 offers a less equivocal means than previous approaches for discerning functional redundancy of paralogous genes that are prevalent in plant genomes. Continuing improvements of the CRISPR/Cas9 system for multiplex genome engineering should facilitate these efforts. The paradigm shift brought about by CRISPR/Cas9 promises to accelerate not only basic research but also applied crop improvement progress.