18/01/2021 WORLD NEWS 23
No 1

Defra Seeks Support for Gene Editing; Launches Consultation


Figure: George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, England. Photo Source: Oxford Farming Conference


The United Kingdom's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is planning to conduct a consultation on gene editing which could unlock substantial benefits to nature, the environment and help farmers with crops resistant to pests, diseases, or extreme weather and to produce healthier, more nutritious food. Secretary George Eustice made the announcement in his speech at the Oxford Farming Conference on January 7, which focused on science.
In his speech, the Secretary said that techniques such as gene editing are really a natural evolution of conventional approaches to plant breeding. Gene editing, he said, "gives us the power to evolve plant varieties with particular traits far faster than was ever possible with conventional breeding and this opens up huge opportunities to change our approach and embrace sustainable farming." The Secretary also said that the UK had no choice but to slavishly adopt the European Court of Justice ruling that gene editing should be treated the same as genetic modification, however irrational and flawed they might be. "Now that we have left the EU, we are free to make coherent policy decisions based on science and evidence and it starts today with a new consultation on proposed changes to English law that will enable gene editing to take place, so that we can achieve a simpler, scientifically credible regulatory framework to govern important new technologies," he added.
In separate press releases, Rothamsted Research and the British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB) welcome the new Defra consultation on gene editing. Rothamsted Director Professor Angela Karp said the consultation means recent advances in gene editing technologies will soon be contributing to a more sustainable and productive farming sector. BSPB chief executive Samantha Brooke said the change in regulation for gene-edited technologies will also promote research investment and new opportunities for international R&D collaboration as this shows that the UK is now open for business and keen to support more innovation-based policies.
Secretary Eustice's speech is available at the UK Government and on the Oxford Farming Conference websites. For more details, read the press releases from Rothamsted and BSPB.


No 2

Breakthroughs in Science Using TALENs

January 13, 2021
Transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), a plant breeding innovation, have been successfully used to develop premium quality high-oleic soybean oil, bacterial blight resistant rice, and potato chips with reduced acrylamide.
Transcription activator-like effectors (TALEs) are proteins made and used by plant pathogenic bacteria to control plant genes during infection. TALENs are protein combinations composed of two parts: one part is the TALE that targets the protein to a specific DNA sequence and the second part is a nuclease (N) that cuts DNA.
Soybean lines with low levels of polyunsaturated fats were developed using TALENs by introducing stacked mutations in two fatty acid desaturase 2 genes (FAD2-1A and FAD2-1B) which confer changes in fatty acid desaturase 3A (FAD3A). This led to oleic acid levels of over 80% and linoleic acid levels under 4%. The gene-edited soybean plants produce premium quality high-oleic soybean oil currently sold as Calyno by Calyxt. It became available in the U.S. market in 2019, making it the first commercialized product from a gene-edited plant.
Read more breakthroughs in science contributed by TALENs from Pocket K No. 59.
Science news

Bacterial Community Members Increase Bacillus subtilis Maintenance on the Roots of Arabidopsis thaliana

APS Publications; Published Online:20 Oct 2020https://doi.org/10.1094/PBIOMES-02-20-0019-R


Plant-growth-promoting bacteria (PGPB) are used to improve plant health and promote crop production. However, because some PGPB (including Bacillus subtilis) do not maintain substantial colonization on plant roots over time, it is unclear how effective PGPB are throughout the plant growing cycle. A better understanding of the dynamics of plant root community assembly is needed to develop and harness the potential of PGPB. Although B. subtilis is often a member of the root microbiome, it does not efficiently monoassociate with plant roots. We hypothesized that B. subtilis may require other primary colonizers to efficiently associate with plant roots. We utilized a previously designed hydroponic system to add bacteria to Arabidopsis thaliana roots and monitor their attachment over time. We inoculated seedlings with B. subtilis and individual bacterial isolates from the native A. thaliana root microbiome either alone or together. We then measured how the coinoculum affected the ability of B. subtilis to colonize and maintain on A. thaliana roots. We screened 96 fully genome-sequenced strains and identified five bacterial strains that were able to significantly improve the maintenance of B. subtilis. Three of these rhizobacteria also increased the maintenance of two strains of B. amyloliquefaciens commonly used in commercially available bioadditives. These results not only illustrate the utility of this model system to address questions about plant–microbe interactions and how other bacteria affect the ability of PGPB to maintain their relationships with plant roots but also may help inform future agricultural interventions to increase crop yields.
 Fig. 4. 
Figure 4:
A, Distributions of Bacillus subtilis on the lower regions of plant roots following colonization (top) and maintenance (bottom) when inoculated either alone or with the indicated strains. Fluorescent cells were false colored yellow in both the DIC-fluorescent image overlays and the fluorescent images. Images from each section were collected from at least two technical replicates of three independent biological replicates of these experiments. Bar = 50 µm. B, Plant root attachment of B. subtilis following colonization (0 days) and maintenance (1 and 3 days) is increased by cocolonization with either ES981, ES1063, or ES1084. Differences in B. subtilis CFU per seedling when coinoculated with another strain are reported as log-fold changes compared with the average B. subtilis CFU per seedling of three replicates in the same biological experiment. Error bars = standard error of the mean; *, **, and *** indicate P < 0.05, 0.01, and 0.001, respectively.
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