CRISPR/Cas9 and TALENs generate heritable mutations for genes involved in small RNA processing of Glycine max and Medicago truncatula

Plant Biotechnol J. 2018 Jun;16(6):1125-1137. doi: 10.1111/pbi.12857. Epub 2017 Dec 4.


Processing of double-stranded RNA precursors into small RNAs is an essential regulator of gene expression in plant development and stress response. Small RNA processing requires the combined activity of a functionally diverse group of molecular components. However, in most of the plant species, there are insufficient mutant resources to functionally characterize each encoding gene. Here, mutations in loci encoding protein machinery involved in small RNA processing in soya bean and Medicago truncatula were generated using the CRISPR/Cas9 and TAL-effector nuclease (TALEN) mutagenesis platforms. An efficient CRISPR/Cas9 reagent was used to create a bi-allelic double mutant for the two soya bean paralogous Double-stranded RNA-binding2 (GmDrb2a and GmDrb2b) genes. These mutations, along with a CRISPR/Cas9-generated mutation of the M. truncatula Hua enhancer1 (MtHen1) gene, were determined to be germ-line transmissible. Furthermore, TALENs were used to generate a mutation within the soya bean Dicer-like2 gene. CRISPR/Cas9 mutagenesis of the soya bean Dicer-like3 gene and the GmHen1a gene was observed in the T0 generation, but these mutations failed to transmit to the T1 generation. The irregular transmission of induced mutations and the corresponding transgenes was investigated by whole-genome sequencing to reveal a spectrum of non-germ-line-targeted mutations and multiple transgene insertion events. Finally, a suite of combinatorial mutant plants were generated by combining the previously reported Gmdcl1a, Gmdcl1b and Gmdcl4b mutants with the Gmdrb2ab double mutant. Altogether, this study demonstrates the synergistic use of different genome engineering platforms to generate a collection of useful mutant plant lines for future study of small RNA processing in legume crops.

Keywords: Drb2; CRISPR/Cas9; Medicago; mutagenesis; small RNA; soya bean.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / genetics*
  • Medicago truncatula / genetics*
  • Medicago truncatula / metabolism
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Soybeans / genetics*
  • Soybeans / metabolism
  • Transcription Activator-Like Effector Nucleases


  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • RNA
  • Transcription Activator-Like Effector Nucleases