Manipulating recombination in crop polyploids

  • Term: 4 years, beginning in 2017

  • Funding Amount: $266,897

  • Lead Researcher(s): Parkin, Isobel (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

  • Funding Partners: Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission (SCDC)

Project Description

The focus of this project is to introduce novel variation for crop improvement by understanding and manipulating the recombination in polyploid crops.

Current breeding practices rely upon variation captured through natural levels of recombination. Understanding and potentially manipulating recombination within and between related species would provide a novel mechanism to introduce valuable trait variation that is not limited by inter-specific or inter-genomic barriers. In polyploid crops, the ability to increase recombination between the constituent genomes of the crops could lead to changes in gene copy number and associated selectable variation that maybe beneficial.

Most polyploid species appear to have evolved mechanisms to prevent homoeologous chromosome pairing between their progenitor genomes to ensure fertility in subsequent generations. Both wheat and canola have such mechanisms. The current project builds on the researchers recent finding on two loci controlling pairing between homoeologues in canola, and would manipulate candidate genes underlying those two loci in multiple polyploid species (canola, wheat and Camelina sativa) to assess their ability to control homologous pairing and their potential to facilitate interspecific exchanges. The specific objectives include, identification of homologues of gene candidates controlling homoeologous recombination in wheat and Camelina sativa; developing constructs for gene knock-outs using CRISPR technology and, assessing the levels of homoeologous recombination in crops.

With access to methods for manipulating inter-specific chromosome exchange, crop breeders would be strategically placed to take full advantage of these untapped sources of variation in polyploid crops. These technologies could ensure the yield stability of wheat and canola for generations to come, ensuring the economic sustainability of the Saskatchewan agriculture industry.