Targeted Mutagenesis and CRISPR-Cas

Credit: Jenna Luecke and David Steadman/Univ. of Texas at Austin.

Targeted mutagenesis offers plant breeders the ability to generate desirable mutants of their plants of interest by targeting specific genes. Unlike, untargeted mutagenesis, targeted mutagenesis is not limited to mutations that occur by chance resulting in faster timelines for the product to reach the marketplace. The 3 main technologies utilised for performing targeted mutagenesis are  Zinc Finger Nucleases (ZFNs), Transcription Activator-Like Effector Nucleases (TALENs), and Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat and associated proteins (CRISPR-Cas). These technologies make use of so-called “DNA scissors” i.e., nucleases to induce cuts to the DNA. Since, DNA breaks can occur naturally, plants have devised several measures to fix these breaks. Some of these measures are error-prone resulting in mutation of the targeted stretch of DNA, which is the intended goal of utilising these tools. The mutations induced by these tools are typically indistinguishable from naturally-occurring mutations.

 Of the available toolkit to perform targeted mutagenesis, the CRISPR-Cas technology is most-widely used amongst researchers due to the its ease of use and simplicity and several plants have been shown to be amenable to the technology. 


Interested to learn more about CRISPR-Cas? Credit: Nature Videos Channel, Youtube