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Recombination an old and new tool for plant breeding




Project Budget  4,174,881 Euros

Plant breeding has always relied on homologous recombination (HR) for generating the genetic variation needed to develop new varieties. The objective of the current proposal is to improve plant breeding by enhancing HR rates in somatic and in meiotic cells. The expected outcomes of such enhancement are to establish an efficient gene targeting (GT) technology for precise engineering of plant genomes and to increase the rate of meiotic recombination between homologous or homeologous chromosomes. There are many factors of the HR machinery that are common to somatic and meiotic cells. This enables to address both objectives in a synergistic way. HR can be divided in different steps: the initiation, by double-strand breaks (DSBs), followed by chromatin remodelling, invasion of the homologous sequence and the resolution of the recombination intermediates.  Each of these stages contains a bottleneck of HR that we will address here. The first work package (WP) will aim at enhancing GT and meiotic HR through targeted DSB induction. DSBs will be induced by zinc-finger nucleases that can be custom-designed for target sequences anywhere in the genome. In the second WP, we will test the influence of HR factors involved in homologue invasion or modulating chromatin structure on GT and meiotic HR.  This includes RAD51 homologs, genes that affect cytosine methylation, chromatin structure and mismatch repair, which influences recombination between divergent sequences. In the third WP we will concentrate on factors involved in crossover promotion and resolvases such as Mus81,  Xpf/Ercc1 and Xrcc3-Rad51C homologs.  In the fourth WP the combined effect of bottlenecks removal as found in the first three WPs will be studied. Most experiments will be performed in the Arabidopsis plant model and implemented by the industry partners into crops such as tomato and corn to guarantee quick applicability for breeding.


The Consortium

Participant name


Karlsruhe University


The Weizmann Institute of Science




University of Geneva


Leiden University

The Netherlands


The Netherlands



Friedrich Miescher Institut


O.S.M-DAN Ltd.



Project website: http://recbreed.eu/recbreed/