top of page
  • Writer's pictureMaahik Trivedi

Advancement in Tomatoes: A CRISPR Application


CRISPR gene-edited tomatoes of various sizes in a black basket

New advancements in CRISPR gene-editing technology have allowed scientists to create larger, sweeter, and more resistant tomato varieties (Cosy Cobra, Wikimedia Commons)


Using CRISPR technology, researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel have successfully grown tomatoes that consume less water without compromising yield, quality, or taste. By targeting a gene called ROP9, they partially closed the stomata, reducing water loss without affecting photosynthesis or sugar production. Extensive field experiments confirmed that the modified plants showed no adverse effects on crop quantity or quality. The research was led by a team of scientists from Tel Aviv University’s School of Plant Sciences and Food Security and was published in the journal PNAS.


What’s The Need?


With the recent increase in global warming and diminishing access to freshwater resources, the demand for more effective crops has grown. This would entail crops that consume less water while producing the same yield. According to World Wildlife, an estimated 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year, so making crops more water-effective remains a top goal.


New Findings


The team looked at a gene known as ROP9, which plays an important role in regulating the stomata’s opening and closing. Stomata are little pores on the surface of the leaf that facilitate the exchange of gases, including water vapor. The team discovered that eliminating this gene using CRISPR technology allows the stomata to partially close. This feature is especially useful at midday when the rate of water loss from transpiration (the evaporation of water from the plant body) is at its highest. However, it was found to cause no difference in the rate of water loss between the control plants and ROP9-modified plants in the morning and afternoon. This is due to the transpiration rate being lower during those respective times.


Because the stomata remained open in the morning and afternoon, the plants were able to take in enough carbon dioxide, ensuring there was no decline in sugar production during photosynthesis, even when the stomata were partially closed in the ROP9-modified plants. This implies that RO9-modified plants will produce the same yield as control plants while requiring less water.


Future For Crops and CRISPR


According to PubMed, the applications of CRISPR in crop-editing have increased from five to 125 between 2016 and 2020. Crop gene editing using CRISPR technology has already been used in a variety of crops, ranging from rice to corn. Specific examples include better shelf life, color, and taste for tomatoes. Rice has been widely enhanced by modifying genes related to grain size, disease resistance, and nutritional content. CRISPR technology has also been applied to wheat crops to improve characteristics such as grain quality, disease resistance, and gluten content. Efforts have been made to develop low-gluten wheat using CRISPR editing. Varieties of sweet and waxy corn have been created using CRISPR, enhancing their taste and texture.


Recently with the introduction of CRISPR-based therapies and these new advancements in crops, CRISPR gene-editing has come a long way. However, with new advancements coming in monthly, who knows what the future holds for genetically modified crops.


 

Comments


bottom of page