Site-specific and adaptable DNA binding domains are essential modules to develop genome engineering technologies for crop improvement. Transcription activator-like effectors (TALEs) proteins are used to provide a highly specific and adaptable DNA binding modules. TALE chimeric nucleases (TALENs) were used to generate site-specific double strand breaks (DSBs) in vitro and in yeast, Caenorhabditis elegans, mammalian and plant cells. The genomic DSBs can be generated at predefined and user-selected loci and repaired by either the non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) or homology dependent repair (HDR). Thus, TALENs can be used to achieve site-specific gene addition, stacking, deletion or inactivation. TALE-based genome engineering tools should be powerful to develop new agricultural biotechnology approaches for crop improvement. Here, we discuss the recent research and the potential applications of TALENs to accelerate the generation of genomic variants through targeted mutagenesis and to produce a non-transgenic GM crops with the desired phenotype.
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