Genome editing using the CRISPR-Cas9 system has the potential to speed up the improvement of wheat varieties by elucidating the molecular basis of agronomic traits and enabling the modification of genes controlling these traits. CRISPR-Cas9 is based on a synthetic guide-RNA (gRNA) that can direct Cas9 nuclease to specific targets in the genome and create double strand breaks (DSB), which are repaired through error-prone non-homologous end joining process which may cause insertions and deletions leading to loss-of-function mutations.
Kansas State University researcher, Qianli Pan, reported an effective wheat genome editing pipeline. Next-generation sequencing data was used to estimate genome editing efficiency of several gRNAs applying the wheat protoplast assay and select the most efficient gRNAs for plant transformation. Successful application of the pipeline to five wheat orthologs of the rice yield component genes that have been previously identified. Gene-edited plants were obtained for all these genes, which were validated and observed to show trends similar to those in rice.
The findings suggest that transferring discoveries in rice may be used to enhance wheat traits, thus, an effective way to accelerate breeding.