The development of reliable and efficient techniques for making precise targeted changes in the genome of living organisms has been a long-standing objective of researchers throughout the world. In plants, different methods, each with several different variations, have been developed for this purpose, though many of them are hampered either by providing only temporary modification of gene function or unpredictable off-target results. The recent discovery of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) and the CRISPR-associated 9 (Cas9) nucleases started a new era in genome editing. Basically, the CRISPR/Cas system is a natural immune response of prokaryotes to resist foreign genetic elements entering via plasmids and phages. Through this naturally occurring gene editing system, bacteria create DNA segments known as CRISPR arrays that allow them to “remember” foreign genetic material for protection against it and other similar sequences in the future. This system has now been adopted by researchers in laboratory to create a short guide RNA that binds to specific target sequences of DNA in eukaryotic genome, and the Cas9 enzyme cuts the DNA at the targeted location. Once cut, the cell’s endogenous DNA repair machinery is used to add, delete, or replace pieces of genetic material. Though CRISPR/Cas9 technology has been recently developed, it has started to be regularly used for gene editing in plants as well as animals to good success. It has been proved as an efficient transgene-free technique. A simple search on PubMed (NCBI) shows that among all plants, 80 different studies published since 2013 involved CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing in rice. Of these, 20, 13, and 24 papers have been published in 2019, 2018, and 2017, respectively. Furthermore, 20 different studies published since 2014 utilized CRISPR/Cas9 system for gene editing in wheat, where five of these studies were published in 2019 and seven were published in 2018. Genomes of other grain crops edited through this technique include maize, sorghum, barley, etc. This indicates the high utility of this technique for gene editing in grain crops. Here we emphasize on CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing in rice, wheat, and maize.
Part of the book: Recent Advances in Grain Crops Research