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Brazil Embrapa develops non-GM gene-edited sugarcaneqrcode

Mar. 15, 2022

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Mar. 15, 2022

211214_CanasFlexCrispr_cana-de-açucar.jpgAccording to an article published by Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), scientists from Embrapa Agroenergy developed gene-edited sugarcanes that are considered non-transgenic (through DNA-free genome editing), according to the Normative Resolution 16 (RN 16) by the Brazilian National Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio) published on Dec 9, 2021.

Cana Flex I and Cana Flex II were created using the CRISPR technique, being considered non-transgenic (DNA-Free), according to resolution (RN nº 16) of the National Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio).

The Cana Flex I and II varieties show, respectively, greater cell wall digestibility and higher sucrose concentration in plant tissues. They respond to one of the biggest challenges in the sector: increasing the access of enzymes to sugars trapped in cells, which facilitate the manufacture of ethanol (first and second generation) and the extraction of other bioproducts.

“Once we identified this characteristic of sugar accumulation in the model plant, we transferred this knowledge to the sugarcane crop, which is the target of our research. An increase of around 15% in sucrose was observed in the sugarcane stalk, and in other sugars such as glucose and fructose, also present in the plant, both in the juice and in the fresh plant tissue,” explained Embrapa researcher Hugo Molinari.

The team also observed a 200% increase in sugar in the cane leaves. “We also carried out tests to see if the gene affected improving saccharification, which is the conversion of cellulose into industrial sugar, and we observed an increase of around 12%,” the researcher added.

As advantages of Cana Flex II, Molinari cites the increase in the efficiency of bioethanol production, the discovery of a variety more suitable for industrial processing, obtaining bagasse with greater digestibility for use in animal feed, and the addition of value to the production chain. of sugarcane as a whole.

“In 2020-2021, the estimated total sugar production in the world was 188 million tons, with Brazil responsible for 39 million tons, equivalent to 21% of world production,” Molinari said.

Another point highlighted by the researcher is the contribution of sugarcane cultivation to a cleaner energy matrix. “Today, we know that more than 45% of the Brazilian energy matrix is renewable and that sugarcane contributes a share of more than 30% to these renewable sources,” he stated.

According to the scientist, although transgenics continues to be an important strategy for solving numerous problems in agriculture and adding value to species, genomic editing performed with techniques such as CRISPR allows for a more precise, faster manipulation of DNA. and economic when compared to transgenics.

“CRISPR technology has allowed for a democratization of the use of biotechnology in agriculture, not only from the point of view of more companies and institutions participating in the development of products that reach the market but also allowing more species of interest to be benefited,” explained Molinari. According to him, the estimated cost of developing a transgenic plant is nearly US$136 million, and between 30% and 60% of this amount is destined for the deregulation stages.

According to Deputy Head of Research and Development at Embrapa Agroenergia, Bruno Laviola, the new sugarcane cultivars using the CRISPR technique is an action at the frontier of knowledge. “These cultivars are just the beginning and pave the way for the development and delivery of other cultivars to the productive sector with characteristics that will directly impact sugarcane productivity and reduce production costs,” he announced.

(Editing by Leonardo Gottems, reporter for AgroPages)

The world’s first CRISPR gene-edited sugarcane was developed in the US

Two recently published innovations by University of Florida researchers at the Department of Energy's Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI) demonstrated the first successful precision breeding of sugarcane by using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing -- a far more targeted and efficient way to develop new varieties.

In the first report, researchers demonstrated the ability to turn off variable numbers of copies of the magnesium chelatase gene, a key enzyme for chlorophyll biosynthesis in sugarcane, producing rapidly identifiable plants with light green to yellow leaves. Light green plants did not show growth reduction and may require less nitrogen fertilizer to produce the same amount of biomass. That study, published in Frontiers in Genome Editing, was led by CABBI researchers Fredy Altpeter, Professor of Agronomy at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), and Ayman Eid, a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Altpeter's lab.

The second study, also published in Frontiers in Genome Editing, achieved efficient and reproducible gene targeting in sugarcane, demonstrating the precise substitution of multiple copies of the target gene with a superior version, conferring herbicide resistance. Scientists co-introduced a repair template together with the gene-editing tool to direct the plant's own DNA repair process so that one or two of the thousands of building blocks of the gene, called nucleotides, were precisely replaced in the targeted location. The result was that the gene product was still fully functional and could no longer be inhibited by the herbicide. That study was led by Altpeter and former CABBI Postdoc Mehmet Tufan Oz.

Altpeter's lab, part of CABBI's groundbreaking project to develop new oil-rich sugarcane varieties, has pioneered research with sugarcane genome editing using the TALEN gene-editing system. But the two recent publications are the first to successfully demonstrate CRISPR gene-editing in sugarcane as well as gene targeting for precision nucleotide substitution in sugarcane using any genome-editing tool.

Embrapa said in a clarification that they does not claim to be the first institution to use the genomic editing technique via CRISPR/Cas9 system in sugarcane. Other groups have used the technology in the crop, with the group led by Prof. Fredy Altpeter (University of Florida) being the pioneer. 

“Not every event obtained through genomic editing techniques, among them the CRISPR/Cas9 system, produces non-transgenic plants as a result. The Brazilian legislation establishes, through Normative Resolution No. 16 of the National Biosafety Technical Commission (CTNBio), that such classification only occurs after case-by-case analysis by CTNBio. Embrapa Agroenergy submitted two genetically edited varieties, Cana Flex I and II, for CTNBio's appreciation. After analysis, both were considered non-transgenic,” explained Embrapa.

The text available on the Embrapa website informs that the Cana Flex I and II varieties were given unprecedented approval by the Brazilian regulatory agency for being considered non-transgenic. Therefore, it informs that the group led by Dr. Hugo Molinari, from Embrapa Agroenergy, was the first to obtain and approve non-transgenic varieties of genetically edited sugarcane. Thus, this is not a disclosure of the "first use of the technique" or its "proof of concept" in sugarcane. Embrapa states that “we are not aware of any other regulatory agency in the world that has approved any variety of sugarcane obtained by the CRISPR/Cas9 tool as non-transgenic.”

Source: AgroNews


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