Aims and goals
- This course aims at providing insight in the theory and practice of plant molecular biology and biotechnology
- The goals and tools for this field of plant science are explained using published literature and laboratory experiments, which will make clear how and why GMOs are constructed and produced
- The last week offers the possibility to debate with lecturers specialist in their field with the ultimate goal to learn about advantages, disadvantages and risks of GMOs release in the environment, so to formulate a personal educated opinion about these issues
At the end of the course you can:
- design a plasmid for plant transformation and to modify plant cells with it
- culture plant tissue in vitro and distinguish genetically modified plants from the wild-type
- test promoters activity using transgenic plants harboring reporter gene-constructs
- genotype plants by using gene-specific sequencing
- learn how commercially available plants were produced
- formulate your own personal opinion on the use of GMO plants.
This course is composed of three modules.
During the first week the methods used in Plant Biotechnology will be discussed. These comprise methods of tissue culture to regenerate entire plants from plant explants or cells, the use of plasmid vectors to transform plants, and the selection of genetically modified organisms (GM plants). Furthermore, methods for Molecular Assisted Breeding (MAB) will be illustrated as example of biotechnology beyond GMOs. A short summary of plant genome and gene expression will precede these topics to refresh some basic concepts of molecular biology.
In the second week the most (commercially) known examples of genetically modified crops will be presented, with specific information on why and how the GM plants were produced. In particular, the most used traits in plant biotechnology will be reviewed, such as herbicide resistance, pest and disease resistance, male sterility for the production of hybrid crops in plant breeding, and improvement of fruit quality.
During the third week guest lecturers will discuss the societal issues related to GMOs and to their use and production in the environment.
The methods discussed in the first week will be put in practice in the lab classes. That is: plants will be stably transformed by Agrobacterium-mediated transformation and pollen by transient transformation with particle gun, molecular techniques will be used to identify transgenic plants and expression of trans-genes, and pollen dispersal and gene transfer between plants will be tested in green house experiments.