Joyce Van Eck

  • Apr 1, 2019

Date & Location: April 1, 2019, at 4p; Room 101 Biochemistry Building

Subject: Application of gene editing to accelerate improvement of underutilized crops

Host: Rebecca Grumet

About the Speaker

Institution: Boyce Thompson Institute

Abstract: The advent of gene editing technologies, especially CRISPR/Cas, has caused a revolution in gene function studies that provide the long-term benefit of approaches to precisely manipulate a phenotype to advance crop improvement. Traits of interest to us are those that when modified can transform a plant species that is underutilized because of undesirable agronomic characteristics into one with potential to diversify options for agricultural production. Our early work with tomato centered on investigation of gene function as it relates to plant architecture, meristem development, and fruit-related characteristics.

Results from this work led us to believe that gene editing could be exploited to fast-track improvement, in a sense fast-track domestication of underutilized plant species. Our subsequent work has transitioned to species (groundcherry and goldenberry) in the Physalis genus, which are distantly related to tomato. With CRISPR/Cas-mediated gene editing, we have observed timely improvements of undesirable phenotypes, such as wild, unmanageable growth habit and small fruit. Through this work we intend to establish editing strategies for key genes that most affect traits such as growth habit, productivity, harvestability and others that if improved would increase the likelihood of underutilized plant species being part of a solution to strengthen food and agricultural security.