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Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering >> 2020, Volume 7, Issue 2 doi: 10.15302/J-FASE-2019305

Embryo-mediated genome editing for accelerated genetic improvement of livestock

. Reproduction, AgResearch, Ruakura Research Centre, Hamilton 3214, New Zealand.. School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland 1010, New Zealand.. School of Medical Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland 1023, New Zealand

Accepted: 2020-02-27 Available online: 2020-02-27

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Selecting beneficial DNA variants is the main goal of animal breeding. However, this process is inherently inefficient because each animal only carries a fraction of all desirable variants. Genome editing technology with its ability to directly introduce beneficial sequence variants offers new opportunities to modernize animal breeding by overcoming this biological limitation and accelerating genetic gains. To realize rapid genetic gain, precise edits need to be introduced into genomically-selected embryos, which minimizes the genetic lag. However, embryo-mediated precision editing by homology-directed repair (HDR) mechanisms is currently an inefficient process that often produces mosaic embryos and greatly limits the numbers of available edited embryos. This review provides a summary of genome editing in bovine embryos and proposes an embryo-mediated accelerated breeding scheme that overcomes the present efficiency limitations of HDR editing in bovine embryos. It integrates embryo-based genomic selection with precise multi-editing and uses embryonic cloning with elite edited blastomeres or embryonic pluripotent stem cells to resolve mosaicism, enable multiplex editing and multiply rare elite genotypes. Such a breeding strategy would enable a more targeted, accelerated approach for livestock improvement that allows stacking of beneficial variants, even including novel traits from outside the breeding population, in the most recent elite genetic background, essentially within a single generation.

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