Targeted Genome Regulation and Editing in Plants

  • Agnieszka Anna Piatek

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The ability to precisely regulate gene expression patterns and to modify genome sequence in a site-specific manner holds much promise in determining gene function and linking genotype to phenotype. DNA-binding modules have been harnessed to generate customizable and programmable chimeric proteins capable of binding to site-specific DNA sequences and regulating the genome and epigenome. Modular DNA-binding domains from zinc fingers (ZFs) and transcriptional activator-like effectors (TALEs) are amenable to engineering to bind any DNA target sequence of interest. Deciphering the code of TALE repeat binding to DNA has helped to engineer customizable TALE proteins capable of binding to any sequence of interest. Therefore TALE repeats provide a rich resource for bioengineering applications. However, the TALE system is limited by the requirement to re-engineer one or two proteins for each new target sequence. Recently, the clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/ CRISPR associated 9 (Cas9) has been used as a versatile genome editing tool. This machinery has been also repurposed for targeted transcriptional regulation. Due to the facile engineering, simplicity and precision, the CRISPR/Cas9 system is poised to revolutionize the functional genomics studies across diverse eukaryotic species. In this dissertation I employed transcription activator-like effectors and CRISPR/Cas9 systems for targeted genome regulation and editing and my achievements include: 1) I deciphered and extended the DNA-binding code of Ralstonia TAL effectors providing new opportunities for bioengineering of customizable proteins; 2) I repurposed the CRISPR/Cas9 system for site-specific regulation of genes in plant genome; 3) I harnessed the power of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tool to study the function of the serine/arginine-rich (SR) proteins.
Date of AwardMar 2016
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorMagdy Mahfouz (Supervisor)


  • Genome Editing
  • Genome Regulation
  • Tale proteins
  • CRISPR/Cas 9

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