Mizzou Researcher Uses Gene-Editing Tool To Improve Productivity In Rice Crops


Source: University of Missouri news release

As global food insecurity climbed to a perilous high in 2022, scientists ramped up their efforts to perfect best practices for protecting the yields of major crops that are essential in combating this issue. And, while rice makes up a small portion of Missouri’s annual harvest, it — along with corn and soybeans — makes up one of the key staples that help address food insecurity not only in the United States, but globally.

In an effort to keep annual yields for staple crops high, a University of Missouri researcher studied how to use genetic-engineering tools to better prepare Missouri’s agriculture industry to control crop disease outbreaks.

In this study “Efficient CRISPR-Cas9 based cytosine base editors for phytopathogenic bacteria,” principal researcher, Bing Yang, a plant biology professor in MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, used a genome editing technique to identify problematic pathogens present in certain bacteria that lead to prolific infections in rice crops. His research helps scientists understand how these pathogens function and, thus, can determine how to guard against widespread infections that destroy yields.

Using a revolutionary gene-editing technique called CRISPR — a method where scientists edit genes by cutting DNA and then letting it repair naturally — Yang and his team edited a sample of bacteria with the goal of determining exactly which genes had pathogenic qualities that would infect proteins in the genome of the rice crop. Notably, Yang’s method revolutionizes a process known as homologous recombination, which has been known to be ineffective and time-consuming.