Targeted gene replacement in barley
The GABI-PRECISE consortium, which originates from the Genome Analysis of the Plant Biological System (GABI) initiative, has announced a cooperative project on the introduction of gene targeting in barley.
The project will run for a period of three years and will be funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF
). The two-million-euro project involves highly qualified partners, including plant biotechnology professor Ralf Reski from the Faculty of Biology at the University of Freiburg.
The project is in line with the goals of the GABI initiative, which is aimed at strengthening the German plant genome research on an international level by forming national networks and establishing competence centres. The project will involve the collection of structural and functional information from important plant genomes
. This will lead to the development of innovative technologies and patents as well as to technology transfer between research institutes and private enterprises.
The scope of agriculture is becoming more and more diversified and is enhanced by the production of high-value, plant-based products that are used as foodstuffs, in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry or for the production of energy. This change requires a transition from traditional to knowledge-based bio-economy. Modern plant biotechnology, in particular methods for transferring and utilising specific traits, will play a key role in this process. However, the current transformation methods are still too inaccurate; this limits their use and contributes to high production costs. "Self-cloning" prevents risks
Targeted gene replacement – gene targeting - has for quite some time been an indispensable tool in the functional analysis of yeast, mouse and moss genomes
, but is currently not available for crop plants. Gene
targeting could have a huge effect on plant cultivation and thus boost the public acceptance of genetically modified organisms
. Undesired toxic genes
or allergens could be removed without the need to transfer foreign DNA
. This approach is referred to as “self-cloning
”. In addition, this technology might be applied to activate interesting endogenous genes
, which could for example increase the resistance of plants to pests or to extreme climatic conditions.
In the GABI-PRECISE consortium, Reski and his colleagues are trying to understand the underlying biological processes in model plants like the moss Physcomitrella patens. They will then communicate the technology to colleagues within the consortium, for example at the Max Planck Institute for Breeding Research in Cologne, who will try to transfer the technology to barley.
The enabling of gene targeting in (crop) plants is totally in line with recent trends in our modern industrial society. Sustainability is becoming a more and more important cornerstone of production. Optimised sustainable plant resources, produced by green biotechnology and methods such as efficient targeted gene replacement play a significant role in supporting the chemical and pharmaceutical industry.
Source: University of Freiburg - 16.04.2008