Dow AgroSciences Confirms Precise Genome Modification in Maize

Breakthrough technology could transform agricultural advancement.

Published on: Apr 29, 2009

Scientists at Dow AgroSciences have demonstrated insertion of a gene for a herbicide-tolerant trait to a specific, pre-determined location in the maize genome confirming that precise modification is practical and feasible, according to new research published in the advanced online edition of the journal Nature.

The new development, EXZACT Precision Technology, is based on utilizing proprietary Zinc-Finger Nucleases for trait engineering and establishes a new industry standard to enhance global crop production through precise genetic modification in plant species. It is the only technology capable of specifically targeting any DNA sequence, thereby providing flexibility and versatility in genetic research and enabling developers to add, delete or edit genes in plants. EXZACT Precision Technology enhances the efficient discovery and development of novel traits and solutions for crop production.

"EXZACT Precision Technology has the potential to re-define the future of agriculture, driving productivity gains globally and greatly enhancing sustainability in a major food crop such as maize. We have proven this technology and modified the crop to enhance nutritional benefits and herbicide tolerance which will produce real benefits to farmers and consumers over time," said Jerome Peribere, President and CEO of Dow AgroSciences. "This breakthrough illustrates Dow AgroSciences commitment to lead innovation in agriculture."

The addition of a herbicide tolerance gene was targeted to disrupt ZmIPK1 in corn, an especially attractive choice because ZmIPK1 encodes an enzyme that is involved in biosynthesis of phytate, a component of feed corn that is particularly difficult to digest for certain animals like pigs and chickens causing excess phosphate presence in the environment. Research results confirmed the herbicide tolerance gene was inserted into the specified domain without random integration of DNA from the donor or the ZFN. Dow AgroSciences research also proved that the herbicide tolerance gene was transmitted to the next generation via normal reproduction. Finally, the research illustrated the dual benefits of herbicide tolerance and reduced phytate levels.

"Conventional agricultural biotechnology has been a laborious, time-consuming and unpredictable undertaking," said Vipula Shukla, project leader for EXACT at Dow AgroSciences. "However, results of the EXZACT Precision Technology show that ZFNs can be utilized in any plant species amenable to DNA delivery, including commodity crops, vegetables, ornamentals, trees and biomass crops. This establishes a new, rapid and efficient strategy for precise plant genetic modification in basic science and agricultural applications. Additionally, it provides a new and efficient path to market, reducing the cost and complexity of product development."

Dow AgroSciences is making EXZACT Precision Technology available and accessible to all segments of the industry through collaboration.