Agriculture depends on breeding. Breeders try to combining desirable and eliminating unfavourable traits of crop plants. Changes in genetic linkage are based on meiotic recombination. Although techniques for the transfer of single traits have been developed, resulting in genetically modified organisms (GMOs), hardly any effort has been undertaken to control the exchange between parental genomes as such. By applying new molecular tools to control recombination the current project aims to establish a new kind of ¿designed¿ plant breeding. Thus, not only transfer or elimination of specific traits should become possible in a programmable way, but also the access to the complete gene pool of natural species and its widening by crossing in closely related species should become feasible. Suppression of recombination should result in an apomixis-like propagation of elite cultivars. Mainly two different levels of control will be addressed in the project: the induction of recombination at predefined specific sites in the genome and the regulation of the level of genome-wide exchange. For the former approach we will apply specifically tailored sequence-specific zinc-finger and meganucleases. Global changes should be achieved by modulating the expression of factors involved in the resolution of recombination intermediates. As the strategy relies on the exploitation of the natural mechanism of recombination, biotechnologically improved plants without transgenes will be obtained after outcrossing. Thus, public concerns raised by GMOs brought out in the field should be avoided. As recent technical improvements make the elucidation of genomic sequences possible at moderate cost and time requirements, the setup of ¿designed¿ breeding should become especially useful in the near future.
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