Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata
) is widely cultivated across the world. Due to its symbiotic nitrogen fixation capability and many agronomically important traits, such as tolerance to low rainfall and low fertilization requirements, as well as its high nutrition and health benefits, cowpea is an important legume crop, especially in many semi-arid countries. However, research in Vigna unguiculata
is dramatically hampered by the lack of mutant resources and efficient tools for gene inactivation in vivo. In this study, we used clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9). We applied the CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing technology to efficiently disrupt the representative symbiotic nitrogen fixation (SNF) gene in Vigna unguiculata
. Our customized guide RNAs (gRNAs) targeting symbiosis receptor-like kinase (SYMRK) achieved ~67% mutagenic efficiency in hairy-root-transformed plants, and nodule formation was completely blocked in the mutants with both alleles disrupted. Various types of mutations were observed near the PAM region of the respective gRNA. These results demonstrate the applicability of the CRISPR/Cas9 system in Vigna unguiculata
, and therefore should significantly stimulate functional genomics analyses of many important agronomical traits in this unique crop legume.
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