The primary interest of the Jacobs group is genome the editing of plant genomes. The group is focused on the use of CRISPR/Cas given its simple design and ever-increasing number of techniquesmodifications. Current and future CRISPR/Cas systems offer a wide range of genome editing capabilities for the investigation and improvement of plant systems. CRISPR technology is a dynamic area of research and new tools are being developed rapidly. Progress is so rapid that it can be difficult for any single research group to stay up to date. To enable the use of this technology within VIB and beyond, there are two avenues of research in the group: First, is the curation of a collection of genome editing (CRISPR) reagents and protocols for use at VIB. CRISPR reagents are have been integrated into a standard set of modular vector systems that are compatible with a wide range of the plant species under investigation at PSB. The Ssecond, is the systematic optimization and development of plant genome editing techniques.
While CRISPR systems are generally effective, there can be a wide range of gene-editing efficiencies, depending on the plant species and/or method of delivery. For example, our experience is that base editors are unpredictable, and most target sites are non-functional. To increase gene editing frequencies and improving the recovery of useful, gene-edited plants, the group is focused on the entire gene-editing workflow, from optimizing protocols to vector components and downstream analysis and isolation of mutants of interest.
CRISPR screens have become a routine tool in many areas of biological research but have been largely undeveloped in the plant community. The Plant Genome Editing group, in collaboration with a number of other PSB groups and collaborators at the Flemish research institute ILVO, is developing a number of protocols and technologies to enable CRISPR screens in plant research.