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CRISPR/Cas genome editing in banana

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    KU Leuven
    Biological sciencesOther
    First Stage Researcher (R1)
    Recognised Researcher (R2)
    Established Researcher (R3)
    Leading Researcher (R4)
    21/01/2017 23:59 - Europe/Brussels
    Belgium › Leuven

At KU Leuven, the faculties of Science and Bioengineering jointly search a young and qualified postdoc in the field of plant molecular biology with notions of, or at least special interest in CRISPR/ Cas Biotechnology in plants. This project is a collaboration between Profs W. Van den Ende (Science) and R. Swennen (Bioengineering), KU Leuven, Belgium

Accelerating evolution: engineering invertase enzymes to enhance fructan metabolism in Musa spp. (banana)

No funding available yet, project submission deadline: Feb 1, 2017
Project starting date: Oct 1, 2017
Bananas are produced in more than 120 countries in South-America, Africa and Asia and around 85% of the crop is retained as a vital food source for 400 million people. With a worldwide production of 145 million tons, banana represents one of the most important food crops. The major threat to banana cultivation is drought, which causes yield losses up to 65%. Climate change (or global warming) is a leading human and environmental crisis of the 21st century.
Banana fruits can accumulate smaller amounts of inulin-type fructans (Cruz-Cardenas et al., 2015), fructose containing oligo-and polysaccharides that are well-known because of their prebiotic, immunomodulatory and antioxidant properties contributing to human health when used in functional foods (Peshev and Van den Ende, 2014). On the other hand inulin-type fructans are emerging as important signals during plant stress responses (Van den Ende, 2013). In banana, fructans are produced by one or more vacuolar invertase enzymes (VIs) that are “on their way” to becoming “genuine” fructan biosynthetic enzymes or fructosyl transferases (FTs), as occurring in plants that accumulate fructans more abundantly (e.g. chicory, Jerusalem artichoke etc). It is widely accepted that FTs evolved from VIs in plants (Van den Ende, 2013).

The goal of this project is to use the CRISPR/Cas 9 technology to edit the banana genome in such a way that evolution is accelerated by transforming two banana VIs into FTs, with a dual purpose:

(i) To increase fructan levels in banana fruit as a direct strategy to launch these health-improving compounds into human diets.
(ii) To increase fructan levels in other parts of the banana plants to counteract stresses (with focus on drought stress).

In collaboration with Dr. Thorben Sprink (a 3 month internship in the Julius Kühn Institute, Quedlinburg, Germany), a direct delivery approach will be undertaken to edit the banana genome because it allows to solve/limit the major issues of CRISPR/Cas9: lack of specificity, necessity of careful selection of the promoters for Cas9 and gRNA expression, and presence of foreign DNA in edited plants.

C. I. Cruz-Cárdenas, M. L. Miranda-Ham, L. A. Castro-Concha, R. Ku-Cauich, José, Vergauwen, T. Reijnders, W. Van den Ende, and R. M. Escobedo-Gracia Medrano, “Fructans and other water soluble carbohydrates in vegetative organs and fruits of different Musa spp. accessions,” Front. Plant Sci., vol. 6, no. June, pp. 1–10, 2015.

D. Peshev and W. Van den Ende, “Fructans: Prebiotics and immunomodulators,” J. Funct. Foods, vol. 8, pp. 348–357, May 2014.

W. Van den Ende, “Multifunctional fructans and raffinose family oligosaccharides,” Front. Plant Sci., vol. 4, no. July, p. 247, 2013.

Candidates should send a motivation letter, CV and publication list to wim.vandenende@kuleuven.be asap or at least before Jan 12, 2017.

Useful links:




https://www.julius-kuehn.de/en/biosafety-in-plant-biotechnology/staff/p/... Lab of Molecular Plant Biology
Postdoc on CRISPR/Cas in banana


3 year postdoc position after successful application at FSR

Additional comments

Reference number BAP-2016-644
Ma Biology, Biochemistry, Bioengeneering or equivalent
Candidates should send a motivation letter, CV and publication list to wim.vandenende@kuleuven.be asap or at least before Jan 12, 2017.

You can apply for this job no later than 21/01/2017 via the online application tool

Work location(s)
1 position(s) available at
KU Leuven
Parijsstraat 72B

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EURAXESS offer ID: 166832
Posting organisation offer ID: 92530228