Clemson University researchers gets $500,000 grant to genetically improve switchgrass

October 17, 2019 |

In South Carolina, a Clemson University researcher has received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture to develop genetically improved and more robust turfgrass and switchgrass. These perennial plants represent a multibillion-dollar segment of the U.S. agricultural economy.

A key challenge to engineering better turf and switchgrass is preventing lab-engineered genes from escaping into the non-modified grasses or weeds growing in nearby fields. This type of transfer could have unpredictable environmental consequences. Scientists agree that one of the most effective ways to prevent this spillover is to produce completely sterile grass plants.

The approach to containing the engineered genes is to integrate two site-specific DNA recombination systems with total sterility induction mechanisms in the final transgenic product.

The first line will contain three active genes for Cre recombinase, hygromycin resistance (hyg) and endonuclease Cas9, and an inactive RNAi expression cassette for a flowering control gene, FLO/LFY homolog. The second line will contain an active herbicide resistance gene bar, recombinase gene phiC31 and FLO/LFY homolog gene guide RNA (sgRNA), and an inactive stress-regulating rice SUMO E3 ligase gene, OsSIZ1.

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Category: Research

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