Advances in Agrobacterium transformation and vector design result in high-frequency targeted gene insertion in maize

Plant Biotechnol J. 2021 Oct;19(10):2000-2010. doi: 10.1111/pbi.13613. Epub 2021 Jul 2.


CRISPR-Cas is a powerful DNA double-strand break technology with wide-ranging applications in plant genome modification. However, the efficiency of genome editing depends on various factors including plant genetic transformation processes and types of modifications desired. Agrobacterium infection is the preferred method of transformation and delivery of editing components into the plant cell. While this method has been successfully used to generate gene knockouts in multiple crops, precise nucleotide replacement and especially gene insertion into a pre-defined genomic location remain highly challenging. Here, we report an efficient, selectable marker-free site-specific gene insertion in maize using Agrobacterium infection. Advancements in maize transformation and new vector design enabled increase of targeted insertion frequencies by two orders of magnitude in comparison to conventional Agrobacterium-mediated delivery. Importantly, these advancements allowed not only a significant improvement of the frequency, but also of the quality of generated events. These results further enable the application of genome editing for trait product development in a wide variety of crop species amenable to Agrobacterium-mediated transformation.

Keywords: Agrobacterium transformation; CRISPR-Cas9; genome editing; maize; targeted gene insertion.

MeSH terms

  • Agrobacterium* / genetics
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics
  • Gene Editing
  • Genome, Plant
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Zea mays* / genetics