Domestication and breeding have created productive crops that are adapted to the climatic conditions of the regions where they have been grown. Initially, this process solely relied on the frequent occurrence of spontaneous mutations and the recombination of resultant gene variants. Later, treatments with ionizing radiation or mutagenic agents facilitated dramatically increased mutation rates, which remarkably extended the genetic diversity of crop plants. However, a major drawback of conventionally induced mutagenesis is that genetic alterations occur simultaneously across the whole genome and at very high numbers per individual plant.
By contrast, the newly emerging methods of site-directed genetic engineering, broadly referred to as genome editing, allow for the induction of genetic alterations at user-defined positions in the plant genome. In fundamental and breeding-oriented research, this technology opens up novel possibilities for the elucidation of gene functions and the improvement of crop plant traits.
At the IPK Leibniz Institute, the importance of site-directed genetic engineering prompted us to establish the technological platform Genome Editing which is at the disposal of all research groups. Based upon classical genetic engineering, this platform covers model species such as Arabidopsis and tobacco, dicotyledonous crops like tomato, rapeseed and camelina, as well as the cereals barley, wheat, triticale and maize. Besides targeted mutagenesis, in which the resulting genetic alteration is random in terms of the nucleotide sequence, we are also using more precise principles such as base and homology-mediated editing.
Dr. Jochen Kumlehn
Phone: +49 39482 5-361