Without a question, we are living in an urban era. More people now live in cities than anywhere else on the planet and I’ve repeatedly argued that cities are our most important economic engine. As a result of these shifts, we’re seeing megacities at a scale the world has never seen before.
CRISPR-PLANT Database - http://www.genome.arizona.edu/crispr "enables the plant research community to access genome-wide predictions of specific gRNAs, and facilitate the application of CRISPR-Cas9 mediated genome editing in model plants and major agricultural crops".
Professor of Genetics Scott Williams, PhD, of the Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Sciences (iQBS) at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, has made two novel discoveries: first, a person can have several DNA mutations in parts of their body, with their original DNA in the rest—resulting in several different genotypes in one individual—and second, some of the same genetic mutations occur in unrelated people. We think of each person’s DNA as unique, so if an individual can have more than one genotype, this may alter our very concept of what it means to be a human, and impact how we think about using forensic or criminal DNA analysis, paternity testing, prenatal testing, or genetic screening for breast cancer risk, for example. Williams’ surprising results indicate that genetic mutations do not always happen purely at random, as scientists have previously thought. His work, done in collaboration with Professor of Genetics Jason Moore, PhD, and colleagues at Vanderbilt University, was published in PLOS Genetics journal.
Genetic mutations can occur in the cells that are passed on from parent to child and may cause birth defects. Other genetic mutations occur after an egg is fertilized, throughout childhood or adult life, after people are exposed to sunlight, radiation, carcinogenic chemicals, viruses, or other items that can damage DNA. These later or “somatic” mutations do not affect sperm or egg cells, so they are not inherited from parents or passed down to children. Somatic mutations can cause cancer or other diseases, but do not always do so. However, if the mutated cell continues to divide, the person can develop tissue, or a part thereof, with a different DNA sequence from the rest of his or her body.
“We are in reality diverse beings in that a single person is genetically not a single entity—to be philosophical in ways I do not yet understand—what does it mean to be a person if we are variable within?” says Williams, the study’s senior author, and founding Director of the Center for Integrative Biomedical Sciences in iQBS. “What makes you a person? Is it your memory? Your genes?” He continues, “We have always thought, ‘your genome is your genome.’ The data suggest that it is not completely true.”
In the past, it was always thought that each person contains only one DNA sequence (genetic constitution). Only recently, with the computational power of advanced genetic analysis tools that examine all the genes in one individual, have scientists been able to systematically look for this somatic variation. “This study is an example of the type of biomedical research project that is made possible by bringing together interdisciplinary teams of scientists with expertise in the biological, computational and statistical sciences.” says Jason Moore, Director of the iQBS, who is also Associate Director for Bioinformatics at the Cancer Center, Third Century Professor, and Professor of Community and Family Medicine at Geisel.
Having multiple genotypes from mutations within one’s own body is somewhat analogous to chimerism, a condition in which one person has cells inside his or her body that originated from another person (i.e., following an organ or blood donation; or sometimes a mother and child—or twins—exchange DNA during pregnancy. Also, occasionally a person finds out that, prior to birth, he or she had a twin who did not survive, whose genetic material is still contained within their own body). Chimerism has resulted in some famous DNA cases: one in which a mother had genetic testing that “proved” that she was unrelated to two of her three biological sons.
We describe a transcription activator-like effector (TALE)-based strategy, termed “TALEColor,” for labeling specific repetitive DNA sequences in human chromosomes. We designed TALEs for the human telomeric repeat and fused them with any of numerous fluorescent proteins (FPs). Expression of these TALE–telomere–FP fusion proteins in human osteosarcoma's (U2OS) cells resulted in bright signals coincident with telomeres. We also designed TALEs for centromeric sequences unique to certain chromosomes, enabling us to localize specific human chromosomes in live cells. Meanwhile we generated TALE–FPs in vitro and used them as probes to detect telomeres in fixed cells. Using human cells with different average telomere lengths, we found that the TALEColor signals correlated positively with telomere length. In addition, suspension cells were followed by imaging flow cytometry to resolve cell populations with differing telomere lengths. These methods may have significant potential both for basic chromosome and genome research as well as in clinical applications.
Here, we report, for the first time, targeted mutagenesis in Zea mays using TALENs and the CRISPR/Cas system. We designed five TALENs targeting 4 genes, namely ZmPDS, ZmIPK1A, ZmIPK, ZmMRP4, and obtained targeting efficiencies of up to 23.1% in protoplasts, and about 13.3% to 39.1% of the transgenic plants were somatic mutations. Also, we constructed two gRNAs targeting the ZmIPK gene in maize protoplasts, at frequencies of 16.4% and 19.1%, respectively. In addition the CRISPR/Cas system induced targeted mutations in Zea mays protoplasts with efficiencies (13.1%) similar to those obtained with TALENs (9.1%). Our results show that both TALENs and the CRISPR/Cas system can be used for genome modification in maize.
In reverse genetics, a gene’s function is elucidated through targeted modifications in the coding region or associated DNA cis-regulatory elements. To this purpose, recently developed customizable transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) have proven an invaluable tool, allowing introduction of double-strand breaks at predetermined sites in the genome. Here we describe a practical and efficient method for the targeted genome engineering in Drosophila. We demonstrate TALEN-mediated targeted gene integration and efficient identification of mutant flies using a traceable marker phenotype. Furthermore, we developed an easy TALEN assembly (easyT) method relying on simultaneous reactions of DNA Bae I digestion and ligation, enabling construction of complete TALENs from a monomer unit library in a single day. Taken together, our strategy with easyT and TALEN-plasmid microinjection simplifies mutant generation and enables isolation of desired mutant fly lines in the F1 generation.
IRRI and PhilRice officials visit the Golden Rice field site that was vandalized... A crowd of 300 had stormed the Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Field Unit 5's (RFU5) Bicol Experiment Station, overwhelming the police and guards, and vandalizing the research plots of Golden Rice...
Regional Executive Diretor Bragas said that they were taken by surprise. They had assembled DA officials and staff in the office, waiting for the group to come in and sit down for a peaceful dialogue. Instead, the militants poured into the compound, overwhelmed the police and village security, broke down a section of the fence surrounding the research area, and entered, uprooted, and trampled the crop.
The officials shared that there were farmers in the group, but they just watched and stayed on the sidelines. Local customs and traditions dictate that the destruction of a living field brings bad fortune – Bicolanos refer to it as "Bosung". Those who entered the field to vandalize were mostly young men and some covered their faces.
The local officials and the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) recounted that the rallyists had been assembled in Legazpi City the day before, and brought overnight to Naga City in a convoy of about a dozen jeepneys. In Naga City they had been housed in local hotels. It was reported that the group included foreigners.
"Recently, significant progress has been made in understanding RNA silencing and how viruses counter this apparently ubiquitous antiviral defense. In addition, plants also induce hypersensitive and systemic acquired resistance responses, which together limit the virus to infected cells and impart resistance to the noninfected tissues."
Researchers at MIT, the Broad Institute and Rockefeller University have developed a new technique for precisely altering the genomes of living cells by adding or deleting genes. The researchers say the technology could offer an easy-to-use, less-expensive way to engineer organisms that produce biofuels; to design animal models to study human disease; and to develop new therapies, among other potential applications.
To create their new genome-editing technique, the researchers modified a set of bacterial proteins that normally defend against viral invaders. Using this system, scientists can alter several genome sites simultaneously and can achieve much greater control over where new genes are inserted, says Feng Zhang, an assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT and leader of the research team.
“Anything that requires engineering of an organism to put in new genes or to modify what’s in the genome will be able to benefit from this,” says Zhang, who is a core member of the Broad Institute and MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research.
Complexes known as transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) can also cut the genome in specific locations, but these complexes can also be expensive and difficult to assemble. The new system is much more user-friendly than TALENs, Zhang says. Making use of naturally occurring bacterial protein-RNA systems that recognize and snip viral DNA, the researchers can create DNA-editing complexes that include a nuclease called Cas9 bound to short RNA sequences. These sequences are designed to target specific locations in the genome; when they encounter a match, Cas9 cuts the DNA.
This approach can be used either to disrupt the function of a gene or to replace it with a new one. To replace the gene, the researchers must also add a DNA template for the new gene, which would be copied into the genome after the DNA is cut.
Each of the RNA segments can target a different sequence. “That’s the beauty of this — you can easily program a nuclease to target one or more positions in the genome,” Zhang says.
The method is also very precise — if there is a single base-pair difference between the RNA targeting sequence and the genome sequence, Cas9 is not activated. This is not the case for zinc fingers or TALEN. The new system also appears to be more efficient than TALEN, and much less expensive.
In 1992, a pair of scientists had a brain wave: How about inserting genes into rice that would boost its vitamin A content? By doing so, tens of millions of poor people who depend on rice as a staple could get a vital nutrient, potentially averting hundreds of thousands of cases of blindness each year. The idea for what came to be called “golden rice” — named for its bright yellow hue — was proclaimed as a defining moment for genetically modified food.
Backers said the initiative ushered in an era when GM crops would start to help the poor and malnourished... “It’s a humanitarian project,” said one of the co-inventors of golden rice, Ingo Potrykus, professor emeritus at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)...
Yet the rice is still a long way from appearing in food bowls — 2016 has become the latest date sketched for commercialization, provided the novel product gets the go-ahead... First, it took scientists years to find and insert two genes that modified the metabolic pathway in rice to boost levels of beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A.
After that came the biosafety phase, to see if the rice was safe for health and the environment — and whether beta carotene levels in lab plants were replicated in field trials in different soils and climates. There were also “bioefficacy” experiments to see whether the rice did indeed overcome vitamin deficiency, and whether volunteers found the taste acceptable...
“We have been working on this for a long time, and we would like to have this process completed as soon as possible”... But “it depends on the regulatory authorities. That is not under our control.”
Coming on the heels of golden rice is the “superbanana” developed by the Queensland University of Technology in Australia with the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It too is genetically designed to be enriched with beta carotene... Project leader James Dale said the so-called cooking bananas that are grown as the staple food in East Africa are low in vitamin A and iron. “Good science can make a massive difference here,” he said...
It took 15 years of enclosed research in the lab for British scientists this year to decide to seek permission for field trials of a plant called false flax... Engineered to create omega-3 fat, the plant could be used as feed in fish farming. It would spare the world’s fish stocks, which provide food pellets for captive salmon, trout and other high-value species...
Andrea Sonnino, chief of the Research and Extension Unit at the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said ensuring food security and a decent diet are very complex. GM crops have a part to play in the solution, but not exclusively so. “We have to go with a set of possible answers to problems that in many cases are technological and in many cases are not — they are social, economic and so on,” he said. “We have to work in different ways, and not only on the technological front.”
Genome Editing with CRISPR Systems Genetic Engineering News CRISPR endonucleases have been used in a recent flood of literature due to their elegant and simple mode of RNA-guided gene targeting and ability to operate via protocols developed...
Epigenetic regulation of gene expression involves, besides DNA and histone modifications, the relative positioning of DNA sequences within the nucleus. To trace specific DNA sequences in living cells, we used programmable sequence-specific DNA binding of designer transcription activator-like effectors (dTALEs). We designed a recombinant dTALE (msTALE) with variable repeat domains to specifically bind a 19-bp target sequence of major satellite DNA. The msTALE was fused with green fluorescent protein (GFP) and stably expressed in mouse embryonic stem cells. Hybridization with a major satellite probe (3D-fluorescent in situ hybridization) and co-staining for known cellular structures confirmed in vivo binding of the GFP-msTALE to major satellite DNA present at nuclear chromocenters. Dual tracing of major satellite DNA and the replication machinery throughout S-phase showed co-localization during mid to late S-phase, directly demonstrating the late replication timing of major satellite DNA. Fluorescence bleaching experiments indicated a relatively stable but still dynamic binding, with mean residence times in the range of minutes. Fluorescently labeled dTALEs open new perspectives to target and trace DNA sequences and to monitor dynamic changes in subnuclear positioning as well as interactions with functional nuclear structures during cell cycle progression and cellular differentiation.
Despite their growing popularity, little is known about binding site parameters that influence TALE-mediated gene activation in mammalian cells. We demonstrate that TALE activators modulate gene expression in mammalian cells in a position- and strand-dependent manner. To study the effects of binding site location, we engineered TALEs customized to recognize specific DNA sequences located in either the promoter or the transcribed region of reporter genes. We found that TALE activators robustly activated reporter genes when their binding sites were located within the promoter region. In contrast, TALE activators inhibited the expression of reporter genes when their binding sites were located on the sense strand of the transcribed region. Notably, this repression was independent of the effector domain utilized, suggesting a simple blockage mechanism. We conclude that TALE activators in mammalian cells regulate genes in a position- and strand-dependent manner that is substantially different from gene activation by native TALEs in plants. These findings have implications for optimizing the design of custom TALEs for genetic manipulation in mammalian cells.
Custom-designed nucleases are a promising technology for genome editing through the catalysis of double-strand DNA breaks within target loci and subsequent repair by the host cell, which can result in targeted mutagenesis or gene replacement. Implementing this new technology requires a rapid means to determine the cleavage efficiency of these custom-designed proteins in planta. Here we present such an assay that is based on cleavage-dependent luciferase gene correction as part of a transient dual-luciferase® reporter (Promega) expression system. This assay consists of co-infiltrating Nicotiana benthamiana leaves with two Agrobacterium tumefaciens strains: one contains the target sequence embedded within a luciferase reporter gene and the second strain contains the custom-designed nuclease gene(s). We compared repair following site-specific nuclease digestion through non-homologous DNA end-joining, as opposed to single strand DNA annealing, as a means to restore an out-of-frame luciferase gene cleavage-reporter construct. We show, using luminometer measurements and bioluminescence imaging, that the assay for non-homologous end-joining is sensitive, quantitative, reproducible and rapid in estimating custom-designed nucleases’ cleavage efficiency. We detected cleavage by two out of three transcription activator-like effector nucleases that we custom-designed for targets in the Arabidopsis CRUCIFERIN3 gene, and we compared with the well-established ‘QQR’ zinc-finger nuclease. The assay we report requires only standard equipment and basic plant molecular biology techniques, and it can be carried out within a few days. Different types of custom-designed nucleases can be preliminarily tested in our assay system before their downstream application in plant genome editing.
Recent advances in the field of genome engineering indicate that it will soon be routine to make site-directed modifications to the genomes of crop species, including targeted mutations, gene insertions, and gene replacements. This new technology will be used to help elucidate gene function and develop new and valuable traits. Key to enabling site-directed genome modifications are sequence-specific nucleases that generate targeted double-stranded DNA breaks in genes of interest. To date, three different sequence-specific nuclease systems have been used in crop plants: zinc finger nucleases, transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), and LAGLIDADG homing endonucleases, also termed “meganucleases.” In this review, we report on the current state of genome engineering in crop plants, comparing the different nuclease and gene delivery systems. We also consider some of the limitations that nuclease-mediated crop improvement technologies may encounter.