February 2022

Dr. Corinne Best


Corinne Best

Rutgers University

Dr. Corinne Best is Studying Molecular Plant Genetics at Rutgers University

“It started when I was I child exploring the shapes of flowers in our backyard”

What is the main focus of your postdoc work?

“The main focus of my work is Chloroplast DNA engineering. Introducing mutations in chloroplast genes now days is made by complex manipulation involving homologous recombination and insertion of a marker gene into the modified target gene. The marker is removed when the wild-type sequence is replaced with the mutant form.

We propose to develop a simplified protocol using CRISPR/Cas9 targeted to plastids. We plan to develop the protocol using herbicide resistance as the test case. This may have commercial value. More importantly, the same protocol can be used to introduce point mutations into any chloroplast gene. This could also be applied for increasing photosynthetic efficiency either by introducing point mutations in the Rubisco large subunit or by improving the tolerance to high light by mutations in the D1 protein. 

My postdoctoral position at Prof. Pal Maliga’s laboratory at Rutgers University has given me this great opportunity to develop these new tools for organellar DNA research. These tools will make organellar genome engineering a realistic goal for breeders. It will also be beneficial to the basic-science community as well”.

What got you interested in engineering herbicide resistance plants ?

“My passion for the plant world began when, as a child, I explored the shape of the flowers in our back yard. This curiosity led me to plant organellar research, since plant kingdom is not only fascinating on its own, but also by its organellar composition (i.e., chloroplast and mitochondria). Manipulating the genome of these DNA containing organelles, that function as semi-autonomous small factories for our own advantage, fascinates me. This specific gene manipulation is of great value because it may contribute to food security in many ways, for example by simplifying weed control”.

What are your plans once you complete your postdoctoral work?

“My hope is to apply these new techniques to another endosymbiont organelle: the mitochondria. Since mitochondrial DNA manipulation is still not well established, this could be an opportunity to apply my accumulating knowledge to engineer the mitochondrial genome. I hope to have the opportunity to join one of the universities in Israel and lead a new research group”.

What tip would you give someone just beginning a career in agricultural research?

“My advice to a beginner is to find a problem that personally interests you and is important for society. The project should be teaching you new skills that can be useful in the long run. Also, it is very important to build a network of colleagues on whom you can rely on”.