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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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Correspondence to Huirong Gao.

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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.

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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).

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