Sequence-specific nucleases as tools for enhancing disease resistance in crops

Genome editing technologies, such as CRISPR/Cas, have recently become valuable tools for plant reverse genetics as well as crop improvement, including enhancement of disease resistance. Targeting susceptibility (S) genes by genome editing has proven to be a viable strategy for generating resistance to both bacterial and fungal pathogens in various crops. Examples include generating loss-of-function mutations in promoter elements of the SWEET S genes, which are targeted by transcription activator-like effectors secreted by many phytopathogenic Xanthomonas bacteria, as well as in the conserved MLO locus that confers susceptibility to powdery mildew fungal pathogens in many monocots and dicots. In addition to genome editing applications, CRISPR/Cas systems can be used as means of defending plants against viruses via targeting viral genomic DNA or RNA. Genome editing is therefore a highly promising approach that enables engineering disease resistance to various plant pathogens directly in elite cultivar background in a highly precise manner. Unlike conventional crop breeding, genome editing approaches are not relying on lengthy and laborious crosses/back-crosses involving parental and progeny lines and can significantly shorten the breeding timeline. Taking into account the high potential of genome editing technologies for both basic and applied plant science, the recent decision of the European Court of Justice to define transgene-free genetically edited crops as GMOs is, clearly, a backward step for the EU.

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DOI 10.1007/s11248-019-00137-2
Date Last Updated 2019-08-02T01:54:05.030177
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