I am a plant developmental and molecular biologist with a strong interest in crop improvement for sustainable agriculture. I graduated from the National University of Rosario (UNR), Argentina with a degree in Biotechnology, and later with a PhD in Biological Sciences. In 2014 I joined the laboratory of Prof. Dubcovsky at UC Davis, California, initially as a Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) Postdoctoral fellow, and later as a as a Research Specialist of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). In Prof. Dubcovsky’s lab, I led a group focused on understanding the genetic networks that control wheat plant architecture and flowering time, and their effect on yield. Currently, I am a Project Scientist at the Plant Transformation Facility at UC Davis, where I lead projects focused on developing technologies that improve gene editing and crop transformation.
Genome editing allows precise DNA manipulation and holds great promise for a new green revolution. Yet, its potential for innovation is limited in many crops by low regeneration efficiencies and few transformable genotypes. In recent years, several molecular approaches have been developed that use morphogenetic genes to improve plant transformation. However, a common problem to those strategies is that the continuous expression of the morphogenetic genes can produce developmental defects and sterility.
We have recently reported that expression of a sequence encoding a chimeric protein including the wheat transcription factor GROWTH-REGULATING FACTOR 4 (GRF4) and its cofactor GRFINTERACTING FACTOR 1 (GIF1) dramatically increases regeneration efficiency of wheat transgenic plants, resulting in fertile plants. We observed increased regeneration efficiency in diverse recalcitrant wheat cultivars, triticale, maize, as well as the model rice cultivar Kitaake.
By combining the GRF4-GIF1 and CRISPR-Cas9 technologies in a single vector, we are now able to generate large numbers of edited wheat plants in a shorter time and in multiple commercial backgrounds. In this talk, as an example of the potential of this approach, I will present results on we have use it to test novel genetic resources to control plant height in wheat and triticale.