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Title: Vast potential for using the piggyBac transposon to engineer transgenic plants

item Johnson, Eric
item OWENS, JESSE - University Of Hawaii
item MOISYADI, STEFAN - University Of Hawaii

Submitted to: Bioengineered Bugs
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/4/2015
Publication Date: 3/1/2016
Citation: Johnson, E.T., Owens, J.B., Moisyadi, S. 2016. Vast potential for using the piggyBac transposon to engineer transgenic plants. Bioengineered Bugs. 7:3-6.

Interpretive Summary: Genetic engineering is commonly performed for some crops in the United States, but the technique has not been adopted in some nations for a number of reasons. One concern is that genetic engineering usually inserts the desired gene into the plant nucleus randomly; development of genetically engineered crops requires the identification of suitable individuals among hundreds (or thousands) of engineered plants that correctly express the new gene and are free of unintended effects on crop performance and yield. New advances in genetic engineering of mammalian cells enable scientists to precisely add new genes at specific locations in the mammalian nucleus. Recent research using an insect derived molecular tool in tobacco and rice suggests that soon plant scientists should be able to precisely add new genes at specific locations in plant nuclei as well. This commentary highlights these recent advances in genetic engineering and proposes an experimental model for precise insertion of new genes in plants.

Technical Abstract: The acceptance of bioengineered plants by some nations is hampered by a number of factors, including the random insertion of a transgene into the host genome. Emerging technologies, such as site-specific nucleases, are enabling plant scientists to promote recombination or mutations at specific plant loci. Off target activity of these nucleases may limit widespread use. Insertion of transgenes by transposases engineered with a specific DNA binding domain has been accomplished in a number of organisms, but not in plants. The piggyBac transposon system, originally isolated from an insect, has been utilized to transform a variety of organisms. The piggyBac transposase is amendable to structural modifications, and was able to insert a transgene at a specific human locus through fusion of a DNA binding domain to its N-terminus. Recent developments demonstrating the activity of piggyBac transposase in plants is an important first step towards the potential use of engineered versions of piggyBac transposase for site-specific transgene insertion in plants.