On Breeding by
Johan Peleman is General Manager of Keygene Genetics, a business
unit of Keygene N.V., Wageningen, The Netherlands. Dr. Peleman
joined Keygene in 1990, at the start of the company, and has
been involved in the development of the AFLP technology,
invented at Keygene. Soon after, Dr. Peleman started
successfully applying AFLP marker technology to assist breeding
processes in a wide variety of crops and animals resulting in
the establishment of an independent business unit Keygene
Genetics (1996) .
This business unit provides molecular marker services all over
the world to a wide variety of industries. The ‘Genetics group’
has since been widely recognized as a world leader in the
development and application of new methodologies for Marker
Assisted Breeding. Within this group new methods for fine
mapping of complex traits as well as association mapping have
been developed. The group has also developed a wide variety of
bio-informatics tools for genetic analysis.
Dr. Peleman received his PhD in Biology from the University of
Gent, Belgium, where he worked in the laboratory of Professor
Van Montagu on the characterization of genes involved in central
cell metabolism and on the isolation and characterization of an
endogenous transposon Tat1 of Arabidopsis thaliana.
In July 2003, an article
titled "Breeding by Design™" was published in
Trends in Plant Sciences. The
paper described how
superior breeding lines can be obtained by understanding the
genetic basis of agronomically important traits. SeedQuest
interviewed Johan Peleman, one of the authors of the paper.
Mr. Peleman is Managing Director of Keygene Genetics, a biotech company owned by a consortium of
vegetable breeding companies.
your responsibility within Keygene and why did you write
the "Breeding by Design" article?
I am responsible for Keygene Genetics, a business unit
in Keygene which provides molecular marker services to
breeding companies and the food industry worldwide.
Typical applications for breeders are: analysis of
breeding material to determine the interrelationships of
your lines, acceleration of backcrosses using markers,
development of simple and easy to use markers for
accurate selection of important traits which are
sometimes difficult or cumbersome to phenotype, genetic
mapping of complex traits in order to control those
traits in a reliable manner (Marker Assisted Breeding).
There are many other applications, also depending on the
creativity with which the breeder incorporates markers
in his breeding program. With more than 10 years of
extensive experience in marker applications markers in
breeding, we have mapped an enormous number of traits in
a variety of crops.
Funded by our experiences, we have a clear view on the
direction that breeding is taking for the future. We
wanted to share our vision on the evolution in breeding
with the scientific and breeding community by writing an
opinion paper in
Trends in Plant Sciences.
you briefly explain the "Breeding by Design" concept to
non molecular biologists?
Breeding by Design is a
concept which starts from the assumption that you can map all
agronomically important traits on the genetic map of your
In our publication on the
Breeding by Design concept we describe that with currently
existing molecular marker technologies, it is possible to do
this. In addition, for each trait it is also possible to
identify the allelic variation that exists in the germplasm.
This is done by a method called 'haplotyping'.
variation is the essence in breeding. Being able to map the
allelic variation using markers, we can exploit this variation
in a precise and controlled manner. Having mapped all traits
and the allelic variation for those traits, it becomes
possible to apply Breeding by Design: with this information,
the breeder can design his ideally desired breeding lines, by
combining all superior alleles at all the different loci of
This ideal designed
genotype is then generated by making targeted crosses and by
selecting the recombinant genotypes using markers. Computer
software designs the shortest crossing scheme to your desired
Breeding by Design can also
be regarded as the ultimate extension of what is done on a
trait by trait scale in marker assisted breeding.
Is "Breeding by Design" unique and how was it
In my opinion, Breeding by
Design is the ultimate achievement for a breeder.
I am sure that many breeders
sometimes fantasize about the possibilities that could arise
in the future with newly developed technologies.
Many of them will have extended
on the concept of Marker Assisted Breeding in their mind and
come up with a concept like Breeding by Design.
What makes our position unique
regarding Breeding by Design is that we are demonstrating that
this concept can be achieved today. It is not the future. It
is happening now.
Wich crops and breeding programs can start with
"Breeding by Design" and are there any limitations?
In theory you can do it on any
species. However, there are 2 limitations.
At this moment, assessment of
allelic variation by haplotyping can only be done on
This does not hamper our
ability to exploit allelic variation for hybrid breeding
programs. But haplotyping is difficult to perform on species
where homozygous lines can not be generated.
A second limitation is that it
requires sufficient financial resources. In other words, only
in crops which generate substantial turnover, it will be able
to generate return on investment.
What else would you like the reader to know
Keygene is a European
biotechnology company owned by a consortium of vegetable
breeding companies: Enza Zaden, De Ruiter Seeds, Rijk Zwaan
and Vilmorin Clause & Cie.
Our research applications have
become essential components of their breeding programs. This
ensures us a very stable basis of income and ownership. It
also renders us quite different from biotech companies funded
by capital investment: we provide the added value directly to
our customers and they are the exclusive owner of this created
Together with the stability of
our company, this makes us ideal partners for biotech
research and marker assisted breeding applications.
Breeding by Design
Johan D. Peleman and Jeroen Rouppe van der Voort
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