Multiplex CRISPR editing of wood for sustainable fiber production

Daniel B. Sulis, Xiao Jiang, Chenmin Yang, Barbara M. Marques, Megan L. Matthews, Zachary Miller, Kai Lan, Carlos Cofre-Vega, Baoguang Liu, Runkun Sun, Henry Sederoff, Ryan G. Bing, Xiaoyan Sun, Cranos M. Williams, Hasan Jameel, Richard Phillips, Hou Min Chang, Ilona Peszlen, Yung Yun Huang, Wei LiRobert M. Kelly, Ronald R. Sederoff, Vincent L. Chiang, Rodolphe Barrangou, Jack P. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The domestication of forest trees for a more sustainable fiber bioeconomy has long been hindered by the complexity and plasticity of lignin, a biopolymer in wood that is recalcitrant to chemical and enzymatic degradation. Here, we show that multiplex CRISPR editing enables precise woody feedstock design for combinatorial improvement of lignin composition and wood properties. By assessing every possible combination of 69,123 multigenic editing strategies for 21 lignin biosynthesis genes, we deduced seven different genome editing strategies targeting the concurrent alteration of up to six genes and produced 174 edited poplar variants. CRISPR editing increased the wood carbohydrate-to-lignin ratio up to 228% that of wild type, leading to more-efficient fiber pulping. The edited wood alleviates a major fiber-production bottleneck regardless of changes in tree growth rate and could bring unprecedented operational efficiencies, bioeconomic opportunities, and environmental benefits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)216-221
Number of pages6
Issue number6654
StatePublished - Jul 14 2023
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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