High biomass switchgrass by CRISPR genome-editing


The lab of Shuizhang Fei at the Department of Horticulture, teamed up with the lab of Bing Yang of the Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology to explore the feasibility of using CRISPR/Cas9 for targeted mutagenesis in a tetraploid cultivar ‘Alamo’ switchgrass. The team created mutants for the genes of teosinte branched 1(tb1) a and b with high efficiencies and a large number of mutants exhibited significantly increased tiller production which could greatly boost biomass yield for switchgrass. In addition, the team also developed a strategy for efficient detection of mutant alleles in switchgrass. The tools and methods developed from this research help to expand the research capacity for the growing switchgrass research community. This research was supported by the US Department of Agriculture and the Crop Bioengineering Consortium of Iowa State University and is published in a leading academic journal, Plant Biotechnology Journal (doi:10.1111/pbi.12778) with graduate students, Yang Liu and Paul Merrick as first authors.