By Benildo G. de los Reyes
Professor of Molecular Genetics
School of Biology and Ecology
University of Maine, USA
Innovative strategies in breeding the next generation of climate-resilient crops will have to be implemented to ensure the world’s food supply amidst burgeoning threats of extreme weather conditions, decreasing arable land and water resources, and rapid population growth. Radical research paradigms are needed to create novel plant attributes that have not yet been achieved in order to substantially enhance genetic potential under marginal environments. This goes beyond what has already been achieved in the first Green Revolution and in subsequent genomics-enabled breeding strategies. How can this enormous goal be attained? Can we push the limits further? Are conventional strategies of marker-assisted introgression and genetic manipulation by transgenesis sufficient?
Any further improvements in the genetic potential of crops will have to rely on the ability to create complex genomic configurations that could lead to novel biochemical and physiological attributes. While the answer to the “9-billion people question (9BPQ)” may be quite overwhelming, if not mind-boggling, a possible component of the solution to the puzzle may be evident from conventional wisdom in plant genetics. This is if we are to boldly reexamine those concepts within the context of recent paradigm shifts in network biology and epigenetics, hence, a new approach to a classical question. Within the context of the 9BPQ, this seminar will present a more contemporary view of the enigmatic phenomenon of transgressive variation by interfacing the classical concepts of Mendelian genetics with these paradigm shifts in network biology and epigenetic regulation.. Transgressive segregation is observed when traits of progenies derived from two divergent parents are either superior or inferior to both parents. Using a tractable genetic model such as rice, we are making incremental advances in addressing the hypothesis that transgressive traits for stress tolerance are due to ideal complementation effects when different portions of DNA and/or RNA from both parents are brought together in the same genetic background through genome shuffling, which leads to reconfigured gene expression networks and novel phenotypes.