MJ 3-4 - Editing the Plant Genome

Monday, July 16
10:30 AM - 11:00 AM

The ability to precisely modify plant genomes through homologous recombination (HR)
promises to advance both basic and applied plant biology. However, even with the use of
sequence-specific nucleases, which stimulate HR by creating targeted DNA double-strand
breaks, there are only a handful of studies that report precise editing of endogenous plant
genes. Our group has been focusing on two efforts to more effectively modify plant genomes
through HR. In one, we are developing new vectors to deliver sequence-specific nucleases and
DNA repair templates to plant cells. Specifically, we have been using geminivirus replicons,
which function in both monocots and dicots, to amplify nuclease-encoding cassettes and DNA
repair templates. In a second effort, we are attempting to achieve HR by either genetically
manipulating DNA repair pathways or delivering nucleases and repair templates to cells
proficient in HR. Progress on our efforts to optimize gene targeting strategies will be reported.


Daniel Voytas, PhD

Professor and Director, Center for Precision Plant Genomics
University of Minnesota

Dr. Daniel Voytas is a Professor in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development and the Director of the Center for Precision Plant Genomics at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Voytas graduated from Harvard College in 1984 and received his Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1990. He conducted postdoctoral research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine where he was a fellow of the Life Science Research Foundation. Prior to joining the University of Minnesota, Dr. Voytas was a professor at Iowa State University (1992-2008). Dr. Voytas is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Specializing in molecular biology and genetics, Dr. Voytas’ research focuses on genome modification using nucleases that recognize specific DNA sequences. In 2005, he co-founded the Zinc Finger Consortium, a group of academic scientists focused on creating open-source platforms for engineering zinc finger nucleases for targeted mutagenesis. His laboratory developed a superior class of sequence-specific nucleases – Transcription Activator-Like Effector Nucleases (TALENs) – which were heralded by Science magazine as one of the top ten scientific breakthroughs of 2012. Using Cas9/CRISPR-based nucleases, Dr. Voytas’ lab is currently optimizing methods for efficiently making targeted genome modifications in a variety of plant species. Recent advances in Dr. Voytas’s lab include the use of geminivirus replicons to dramatically increase the frequency of precise genome modifications in multiple plant species.
In addition to his position at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Voytas advises agricultural biotechnology companies on the use of new methods of genome engineering for crop improvement and serves as Chief Science Officer for Calyxt.


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MJ 3-4 - Editing the Plant Genome

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