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TAGIP — Result In Brief

Project ID: 18785
Country: Israel

Preparing crops for therapeutic purposes

An EU-funded initiative advanced knowledge of the mechanisms that control DNA recombination. Outcomes are significant for furthering the potential of genetically modified plants to produce therapeutic proteins.
Preparing crops for therapeutic purposes
Genetically modified (GM) crops have been engineered to enhance certain traits such as herbicide resistance or improved nutritional content. DNA integration via homologous recombination (gene targeting) is the main process of modifying plants by introducing genes at a specific site in the target genome. It is a powerful tool for genetic engineering and it involves disruption, modification or replacement of a specific gene.

Gene targeting in plants is emerging as a new technology for production of therapeutic proteins. However, current methods of gene insertion and expression lack precision and result in the loss of the introduced gene or gradual reduction of gene expression. Optimisation of these technologies is of prime importance especially when high expression levels are required as in the case of therapeutic protein production.

The 'Targeted gene integration in plants: vectors, mechanisms and applications for protein production' (TAGIP) project worked to develop efficient ways of targeted DNA integration and gene expression in plants. Random integration of genes often leads to silencing. To address this issue, project members used the technology of zinc finger endonucleases that introduce DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) into the target genome. They utilised the enzyme I-SceI to efficiently introduce genes into the genome of the plant model Arabidopsis. This enabled the study of mechanisms of DNA recombination, DNA repair and gene targeting in plants. Additionally, they prepared a system for controlled and specific gene expression using genes that affect the DNA chromatin structure.

The results of the project significantly contribute to the basic understanding of the mechanisms that control DNA recombination, repair and methylation in plants. These advancements in gene targeting technology will make plant biotechnology an alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals.

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