APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:
- Biofuels production
- Wood industry re: paper, pulping, construction
- Animal feed
- Agricultural industry re: seed quality
- Enables desired heritable trait in chimeric plants
- Tissue-specific generation of SNPs and/or INDELs
Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) researchers Dominique Loqué and Yan Liang have developed a technology that generates, in vivo, small DNA damages in target genes, reducing or inactivating their function only in target cell types. This approach could be used to inactivate any target genes in specific tissues such as in fiber cells. It can be used to repress lignin biosynthesis or manipulate xylan biosynthesis to improve C6/C5 ratio and biomass quality – both approaches to achieving more economical biofuel production. Other uses of reduced-lignin and/or reduced-xylan plants include saccharification reaction to generate soluble sugars more efficiently; simplification of downstream processing for wood industry (paper, pulping, construction); improvement of the quality of wood for construction; or use as animal (ruminant) feed.
The researchers applied genetically encoded bioediting tools toward the lignin biosynthesis pathway as proof of concept. They ultimately repressed lignin biosynthesis only in fiber cells without affecting lignification of vessel cells. The mutations, which are irreversible, affect only target tissues and are nonheritable, while the bioediting tools are and can perpetuate the mutations in the following generations. Therefore, this technology permits creation of heritable traits, allowing chimeric plants with mutant alleles in specific genes in specific tissues.
Lignin is a prime factor in the high cost of biofuel production, as it binds cell-wall polysaccharides, making extraction of plant sugars difficult. However, removing lignin from a growing plant cannot be achieved without causing deleterious developmental changes. Previous attempts to genetically inhibit lignin content have either failed or produced rather limited results. The need remains for new methods to reduce lignin content without altering plant development or causing undesirable effects. This invention can address that need as well as other needs in the paper pulping, construction and animal feed industries.
DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Proven principle
STATUS: Published US Patent Application, 2015/0218573. Available for licensing or collaborative research.
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REFERENCE NUMBER: 2013-171