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1-2020-1407

Plants Having Increase Tolerance to Drought and Salt Stress

Loss of function mutant of a specific gene in tomato, using CRISR/Cas9 genome editing, that
results in plants with increase water use efficiency (WUE), drought and salt tolerance.
Combined results from five different analyses demonstrate that the mutant tomatoes display
increased WUE due to lower stomata conductance and transpiration while photosynthesis rates
and yield are not effected, compared to wild type controls.
The gene that we have mutated is almost 100% identical in other Solanaceous species including
important crops such as potato, eggplants and tobacco. Furthermore, the gene we mutated has
close homologs in most higher plants species including important crops such as wheat, maize and
rice, suggesting that the technology that we developed could be applicable to many plant species.

Potential applications
The increasing scarcity of fresh water resources together with global warming and expected
increase in population require development of crops with increase water use efficiency (WUE).
In other words, crops which would require reduced irrigation while maintaining the same yields.
The technology that we have developed meets this demand and would allow significant saving in
irrigation. In addition, the technology also leads to plants which are more drought tolerant. This
will be extremely important in cases where the irrigation system breaks down or in periods of
drought in crops which are primarily irrigated by rainfall. The plants also show increase salt
tolerance a trait which would become important if fresh water is limited and given increase soil
salinity. The conservation of the gene that we have mutated strongly suggest that homologs in
different species likely have similar function suggesting that the technology could be used in
variety of species.
Stage of Development
The technology has been developed in a commercial variety of tomato using CRISPR/Cas9
mediated genome editing. The Cas9 gene has been cross out and therefore the plants are
considered non-transgenic in some countries. Hence, the technology is ready to use in tomato
and given the conservation of the mutated gene in Solanaceous species adaption to other
agricultural important crops such as potato, eggplant and tobacco should be straightforward.
Application to other plant species including major crops such as wheat, rice and maize (corn)
would require additional studies.
Intellectual Property
Ramot filed a provisional patent application titled: “Plants with reduced XXX expression and/or
activity having increase tolerance to drought and/or salt stress” in U.S. Provisional patent
application No. 62/940,265.