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Success with 'cisgenics' in forestry offers new tools for biotechnology
Date:6/8/2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. Forestry scientists at Oregon State University have demonstrated for the first time that the growth rate and other characteristics of trees can be changed through "cisgenics" a type of genetic engineering that is conceptually similar to traditional plant breeding.

Cisgenics uses genes from closely related species that usually are sexually compatible. If governments choose to regulate it similarly to conventional breeding, experts say, it could herald a new future for biotechnology, not only in forestry but crop agriculture and other areas.

In findings just published in Plant Biotechnology Journal, researchers used cisgenic manipulation to affect the actions of gibberellic acid, a plant hormone, in poplar trees. This had significant effects on the growth rate, morphology and wood properties of seedling trees.

The advance is important for forestry research, but perhaps even more significant in demonstrating the general value and success of cisgenics.

"Until now, most applications of biotechnology have been done with transgenics, in which you take genetic traits from one plant or animal and transfer them into an unrelated species," said Steven Strauss, a distinguished professor of forest biotechnology at OSU. "By contrast, cisgenics uses whole genes from the same plant or a very closely related species. We may be able to improve on the slow and uncertain process of plant breeding with greater speed and certainty of effect."

This is possible in part because of the growing knowledge about what specific genes do in plants and animals, and enormous increases in the speed of genome sequencing, or mapping them out in their entirety. Sequencing that used to take years can now be accomplished in days.

Modern plant breeding, in which related plant species are systematically interbred to create improved traits such as faster growth, more desirable qualities, drought or disease resistance date
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Contact: Steven Strauss
steve.strauss@oregonstate.edu
541-737-6578
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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