GrassRoots’ gene discovery program utilizes complementary forward and reverse genetic approaches to correlate genes with their biological functions. Discoveries from forward and reverse genetic approaches are used to cross inform these correlations and design testing strategies for improving crop yield potential and stability. This comprehensive gene discovery program will deliver trait genes for licensing that have demonstrated function in a relevant model plant system for maximal translatability to crops.
The forward genetic approach involves high throughput trait screening of a large collection of genetic variants in crop models, followed by rapid identification of trait genes. This forward genetic approach takes advantage of genetic diversity in natural populations as well as chemically induced mutant collections. Our approach integrates above and below ground phenotyping data in screening for high performing variants under input limiting conditions such as nutrient deficiency and drought. Our expertise in a root-focused phenotyping platform, Root Xpose, provides a unique advantage in uncovering stress tolerance traits. Trait gene alleles can be rapidly identified by genomic analysis facilitated by next generation sequencing methods.
The reverse genetic approach is driven by a high-resolution gene expression profiling approach that is coupled with a systems analysis of gene networks. The high resolution expression profile provides increased sensitivity in detecting stress response genes by integrating spatial and temporal gene expression datasets across response time, development stage and tissue-specific cell types. The systems approach predicts the function of these stress response genes in transcriptional and genetic networks within specific cell-types by incorporating in house and public datasets.
Genes prioritized by this comprehensive approach are functionally tested by targeted over and under-expression strategies that are enabled by a rapid transformation pipeline and a high throughput screening platform in model plants. Candidate genes are further validated in crops of interest. Expression of trait genes will be further enabled by GrassRoots’ gene expression platform.