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Revolutionizing Agriculture: Enhanced Genome Editing Tool Accelerates Sustainable Trait Improvement

16 days ago

In a groundbreaking development, research led by Keith Slotkin, PhD, and his team at the Plant Transformation Facility within the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center has unveiled a cutting-edge technology known as TATSI (Transposase-Assisted Target Site Integration). This innovative approach leverages plant transposable elements to precisely integrate custom DNA into specific locations within plant genomes, marking a significant advancement in crop improvement efforts.

Traditionally, integrating foreign DNA into plant genomes has posed challenges due to low frequency and inaccuracies, hindering the progress of genome editing techniques for agricultural enhancements. By harnessing the natural capabilities of plant transposable elements, which have evolved over billions of years to act as efficient molecular tools for genetic modifications, TATSI technology offers a game-changing solution.

The fusion of CRISPR/Cas system's precision editing with the molecular "glue" feature of transposable elements enhances the rate of targeted DNA integration in plant genomes by an order of magnitude. This breakthrough enables rapid and cost-effective production of gene-edited plants with tailored traits such as virus resistance, nutrient enrichment and improved oil composition.

The TATSI project originated in 2019 following the Slotkin team's victory in the Danforth Center's "Conversations: Big Ideas 2.0" competition, where they proposed exploiting transposable elements for crop enhancement. Despite being commonly referred to as "junk DNA," these elements constitute a significant portion of the corn genome, offering untapped potential for genetic manipulation. Supported by research grants from Bayer Crop Science, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Danforth Center's Proof of Concept awards, the TATSI technology has progressed from conceptualization to pre-commercial development, showcasing its transformative impact on agricultural research.

This pioneering study, recently published in the esteemed scientific journal Nature, highlights the pivotal role of TATSI technology in accelerating sustainable trait improvement within agriculture, heralding a new era of precision genome editing for enhanced crop productivity and resilience.


About The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

Established in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a non-profit research institute dedicated to advancing plant science to address global challenges related to food security and environmental sustainability. Through research, education, and outreach initiatives, the Center aims to position St. Louis as a hub for plant science innovation, supported by funding from various prestigious organizations and donors. 


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