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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Marker-free carotenoid-enriched rice generated through targeted gene insertion using CRISPR-Cas9.

  • Author(s): Dong, Oliver Xiaoou
  • Yu, Shu
  • Jain, Rashmi
  • Zhang, Nan
  • Duong, Phat Q
  • Butler, Corinne
  • Li, Yan
  • Lipzen, Anna
  • Martin, Joel A
  • Barry, Kerrie W
  • Schmutz, Jeremy
  • Tian, Li
  • Ronald, Pamela C
  • et al.

Targeted insertion of transgenes at pre-determined plant genomic safe harbors provides a desirable alternative to insertions at random sites achieved through conventional methods. Most existing cases of targeted gene insertion in plants have either relied on the presence of a selectable marker gene in the insertion cassette or occurred at low frequency with relatively small DNA fragments (<1.8 kb). Here, we report the use of an optimized CRISPR-Cas9-based method to achieve the targeted insertion of a 5.2 kb carotenoid biosynthesis cassette at two genomic safe harbors in rice. We obtain marker-free rice plants with high carotenoid content in the seeds and no detectable penalty in morphology or yield. Whole-genome sequencing reveals the absence of off-target mutations by Cas9 in the engineered plants. These results demonstrate targeted gene insertion of marker-free DNA in rice using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing, and offer a promising strategy for genetic improvement of rice and other crops.

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