Superior field performance of waxy corn engineered using CRISPR–Cas9


We created waxy corn hybrids by CRISPR–Cas9 editing of a waxy allele in 12 elite inbred maize lines, a process that was more than a year faster than conventional trait introgression using backcrossing and marker-assisted selection. Field trials at 25 locations showed that CRISPR-waxy hybrids were agronomically superior to introgressed hybrids, producing on average 5.5 bushels per acre higher yield.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Waxy gene deletion in elite inbreds using CRISPR–Cas9.
Fig. 2: Amylopectin content and grain yield of CRISPR-wx hybrids compared with the TI-wx counterparts.

Data availability

All data supporting the findings of this study are available in the article and its Supplementary Information files. Sequencing data are available in the SRA database in BioProject PRJNA597019. Plasmid accession numbers are MN294713 (Plasmid 1), MN294714 (Plasmid 2), MN294715 (Plasmid 3), MN294716 (Plasmid 4), MN294717 (Plasmid 5), MN294718 (Plasmid 6) and MN294719 (Plasmid2_Waxy-CR2). Upon request, maize lines can be provided under an applicable material transfer agreement to academic investigators for noncommercial research.


  1. 1.

    Shure, M., Wessler, S. & Fedoroff, N. Cell 35, 225–233 (1983).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Nelson, O. & Pan, D. Annu. Rev. Plant Physiol. Plant Mol. Biol. 46, 475–496 (1995).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Schwatz, D. & Whistler, R. L. in Food Science and Technology (eds BeMiller, J. & Whistler, R.) 1–10 (Academic, 2009).

  4. 4.

    Fan, L. et al. PLoS ONE 4, e7612 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Dong, L. et al. Plant Biotechnol. J. 17, 1853–1855 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Svitashev, S. et al. Plant Physiol. 169, 931–945 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Lowe, K. et al. In Vitro Cell Dev. Biol. Plant 54, 240–252 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Chilcoat, D., Liu, Z. B. & Sander, J. Prog. Mol. Biol. Transl. Sci. 149, 27–46 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Shi, J. et al. Plant Biotechnol. J. 15, 207–216 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Zastrow-Hayes, G. et al. Plant Genome 8, 1–15 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Young, J. et al. Sci. Rep. 9, 6729 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Tang, X. et al. Genome Biol. 19, 84 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Hahn, F. & Nekrasov, V. Plant Cell Rep. 38, 437–441 (2019).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Li, J. et al. Plant Biotechnol. J. 17, 858–868 (2019).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Gao, H. et al. Plant J. 61, 176–187 (2010).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    McCleary, B. V., Solah, V. & Gibson, T. S. J. Cereal Sci. 20, 51–58 (1994).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Gilmour, A. R., Thompson, R. & Cullis, B. R. Biometrics 51, 1440–1450 (1995).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Cullis, B. R. et al. Biometrics 54, 1–18 (1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Gilmour, A. R. et al. ASReml User Guide 3.0. (VSN International, 2009).

Download references


We thank D. O’Neil, A. Carzoli, G. Zastrow-Hayes and their teams for nucleic acid analysis and sequencing; L. Church, K. Simcox and their team for greenhouse plant care and nusery seed production; and S. Basu, S. Betts and D. Bubeck for providing project support. We are grateful to J. Shi, S. Betts, G. May and M. Fedorova for critical review of this manuscript.

Author information




R.B.M., H.G., A.M.C., N.D.C. and T.W.G. designed edits. M.J.G. selected inbred lines. H.G., B.L., M.Y., M.S., J.F., K.S., D.P., L.F., S.J., G.St.C., M.R., N.S.-D., C.P., L.W., J.K.Y., M.B. and J.H. conducted the transformation and molecular analysis experiments. M.J.G., H.R.L. and B.D. conducted field trials and analyzed data. H.G., M.J.G. and N.D.C. wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Huirong Gao.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

This work was funded by Corteva Agriscience, a for-profit agricultural technology company, as part of its research and development program. All authors were employees of Corteva Agriscience at the time of their contributions to this work. Patents have been filed related to this work.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Materials

Supplementary Figs. 1–8 and Tables 1–7.

Reporting Summary

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Gao, H., Gadlage, M.J., Lafitte, H.R. et al. Superior field performance of waxy corn engineered using CRISPR–Cas9. Nat Biotechnol 38, 579–581 (2020).

Download citation

Further reading

  • Complex Trait Loci in Maize Enabled by CRISPR-Cas9 Mediated Gene Insertion

    • Huirong Gao
    • , Jasdeep Mutti
    • , Joshua K. Young
    • , Meizhu Yang
    • , Megan Schroder
    • , Brian Lenderts
    • , Lijuan Wang
    • , Dave Peterson
    • , Grace St. Clair
    • , Spencer Jones
    • , Lanie Feigenbutz
    • , Wally Marsh
    • , Min Zeng
    • , Susan Wagner
    • , Jeffry Farrell
    • , Kay Snopek
    • , Chris Scelonge
    • , Xiaoyi Sopko
    • , Jeffry D. Sander
    • , Scott Betts
    • , A. Mark Cigan
    •  & N. Doane Chilcoat

    Frontiers in Plant Science (2020)