What is Biotechnology?
An ever expanding set of biological techniques or
applied for the development of
products or services.
yeast/fungi, animals, humans).
Biotechnology is a big
Intersects with bioengineering, food technology,
health delivery, agriculture, biodiversity
Plant or crop biotechnology is not the
same as genetic engineering (GMOs)
“Biotech crops” or “biotech microbes” are produced by
recombinant DNA technology. Such organisms have
unique properties and their release into the
environment is subject to special regulations.
Biotech crops, biotech foods
Genetically engineered food
The methods of biotechnology are
universally applicable to microbes,
animals and plants
Gene expression profiling
Identification of biomarkers
Agricultural or plant biotechnology
has many facets.
Use of genetic markers to accelerate plant breeding.
Selection of microbes that live symbiotically with
plants (e.g. nitrogen fixers).
Metabolic flux engineering to enhance the production
of specific chemicals in plants or in tissue culture.
Diagnostics for pathogens or toxins
Creation of biopesticides and bioherbicides
Creation of crop varieties or biomass varieties with
specific application in agriculture or industry.
Guauyle, a native of the
desert of Chichuahua is
the source of hypo
(latex with a very low
Finding interesting chemicals in unusual plants!
Biopesticides: an under
developed $ 100 million market
Eden Bioscience developed
, a protein that
activates the natural plant
A model for the biopesticide industry:
More local development and production
Potato: PVX, PVY, PVA, PVS, PVV, TSWV and Ralstonia solanacearum
• Plum tree, Peach tree, nectarine, apricot tree, cherry tree and Prunus
spp. ornamentals: Plum pox virus (PPV)
• Tomato and pepper: PepMV, ToMV, TSWV, TYLCV
• Geranium: R. solanacearum and Xanthomonas hortorum pv pelargonii
• Ornamentals (also a wide range of fruit trees and horticultural): INSV,
• Beetroot: BNYVV y BYV
Finding smart green chemicals: high
Most agrochemicals are very broad spectrum; kill many species
of insects or nematodes; can we find species
Start with genes (e.g. encoding receptors active in important
signal transduction pathways) and then screen chemical libraries
for chemicals that interact with the receptor.
All human beings have
the same genes, but we
all have very slight
differences in many
plants of a species differ
Some of these
important, but how do
we find them?
Estimating biological diversity:
Finding new alleles.
Modern maize is a descendent of
a plant with
multiple stems, very small ears with few seeds encased in a
It is likely that domestication occurred in a relatively small region (a few villages)
and that teosinte grew in a larger area. Genetically this means that alleles of
many genes are present in the wild populations of teosinte now growing in Mexico,
but these alleles are not in domesticated corn.
Loss of genetic diversity (alleles) as a result of domestication,
selection and plant breeding.
Alleles are variants of the DNA sequence at a
specific locus. They can be due to small deletions,
insertions or base changes. They may or may not
have an effect on the phenotype.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs or “snips”)
are single base changes. They can be easily
identified once the genome has been sequenced.
Change of a single base occurs about every 500 bases.
Most of these replacements have no effect (they are
outside a gene, or produce a silent mutation).
Other snips impart a different activity to the gene. Some
snips show up as changes in phenotype (human
disease, plant resistant to infection, a more or less
efficient enzyme for example)
Mass characterization of alleles by detection of SNPs (single
nucleotide polymorphisms) in a 100,000 plants annually.
Courtesy of Pioneer Hi
Bred, a DuPont Company
A. In the field, a technician samples a leaf with a hole
the leaf disc immediately in a plastic tube with DNA
which is put in a rack (B). C. After extracting the DNA, a robot samples 144
tubes simultaneously and transfers aliquots to filters that are hybridized with
nucleotide probes (D). Spots have different intensities depending on sequence.
One of the many progeny is bigger!
Finding interesting genes in wild relatives
Important genes identified in one species
(Arabidopsis or rice)
can immediately be recognized in other
species. All this information is
Determine the expression of thousands
of genes at once on a “chip”
Genomics, the most recent genetic technology
Making a linkage map with
molecular markers permits acceleration of
breeding because plants carrying the desirable
gene (between the flags!) can be identified as
seedlings. No need to wait for the phenotype to
show up in the field.
Gene mapping and
Marker assisted selection (MAS)
Genetic engineering of plants (creation of GMOs)
relies on a natural gene transfer mechanism by
from its Ti plasmid to the
plant genomic DNA.
Discovered by Marc Van Montagu and Jeff Schell in Belgium
and by Mary Dell Chilton and Eugene Nester in the USA
Crops expressing the Bt gene (Cry) require fewer pesticide
applications, which is better for the environment and saves the
The entire GM crop business is
driven by two genes: for insect
resistance and herbicide tolerance
Herbicide tolerant crops promote conservation
Plants are left on the field to decay more slowly than if they are
mixed with the topsoil. Water is conserved (less evaporation
and stubble retains more snow on the field.). Less soil
compaction from heavy machinery. Less dust (dust is a serious
Less work! It saves the farmer money!
Planted by 7 million
Farmers in 18 countries in 2003
Benefits Drive Global Expansion of GM crops.
>10% annual growth since 1996 introduction
Annual impact of current
and potential biotech
products on US agriculture
46 M lbs actual
117 M lbs potential
Food and Fiber Supply
4 B lbs actual
10 B lbs potential
$1.5 B actual
Additional $1.0 B potential
Source: Gianessi et al., 2002. NCFAP
(National Center of Food and Agricultural Policy)
Potential: Represents the added impact of products in the development pipeline
Source: C. James, 2003. ISAAA
(International Service for the Acquisition of Agri