Plant Transformation Facility

Who we are

The Plant Transformation Facility (PTF) is a service facility of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and its School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS). PTF is charged with supporting the plant biology research of Cornell faculty by making transgenic plants of time-consuming or hard-to-transform species with a particular focus on New York State crops. With the explosion of interest in gene editing technologies, much of our work involves performing CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome modification. PTF is located in B22 Weill Hall on Cornell's Ithaca campus.

Technologies available at PTF

PTF is set-up to do transformation using the following approaches. The method chosen will vary between species and even between some genetic backgrounds of the same species.

  • Agrobacterium
  • Biolistics (gene gun)
  • Protoplasts

Plant species transformed

  • Rice (Nipponbare, Kitaake, and IR64 genetic backgrounds) 
  • Maize (inbred line B104)
  • Wheat (Fielder) 
  • Apple (M.26) 
  • Other. We look forward to collaborating with Cornell faculty on other plant species of interest, with emphasis on those that are not currently addressed at other plant transformation facilities. We are particularly interested in working on crops significant to the New York State agricultural economy.

Those interested in transformation of tomato, potato, Brachypodium distachyon, and Setaria viridis should contact the Biotechnology Center at Boyce Thompson Institute.

Learn more

Plant transformation is a scientific approach whereby DNA from any organism is inserted into the genome of a species of interest. The inserted DNA is called a “transgene”, and the resulting plant is said to be “transgenic”.

Transgenic plants are vital for both research and agriculture. They help the plant research community test hypotheses, greatly expanding our understanding of plant biology. Transgenic technology may also improve key characteristics of economically important crops, thereby helping both growers and consumers. These traits include yield, disease resistance, abiotic stress tolerance, and nutrient abundance among others. When a transgene safely improves one of these traits in an economically important crop and is approved for use by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the plants may then move from the lab to farmers’ fields and the tables of consumers.

In the past, plant researchers, other than those working with the moss Physcomitrella patens, have been disadvantaged by the near inability to perform targeted gene modifications. Recent advances, however, have led to three gene editing technologies that can be applied to plants: zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs), transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9), also known as the CRISPR/Cas9 system. These technologies now enable plant scientists to make targeted deletions, point mutations, and so on.

Of the three new gene-editing technologies, the CRISPR/Cas9 system is the most easily adapted to new targets and new mutations, and it can be applied in three different ways. In the first, the components of the CRISPR/Cas9 system are transformed into plants, plants with the desired mutations are selected, and the transgene(s) is outcrossed so that the final mutated line has the desired mutation but not the transgene(s). The other two methods do not include a transgenic intermediate and utilize plant protoplasts. In the second method, purified Cas9 protein and the required targeting RNAs are transfected into protoplasts, and then whole plants are grown from the gene-edited cells. In the third approach, the components of the CRISPR/Cas9 system are transiently expressed in the cells, and then whole plants are grown from the gene-edited cells.

We currently transform rice, maize, wheat, and apple using Agrobacterium tumefaciens. In all cases we provide a minimum of 5 independent transgenic events, but any additional events achieved will also be provided to the user at no additional charge. We ship fully regenerated and rooted T0 plants (plantlets) in tissue culture for the user to transplant to soil. If plantlets are not an option for you, please contact the facility director to discuss whether we can accommodate your needs.

To discuss the possibility of PTF transforming a crop or genotype other than those listed here, please contact the facility director.

Other Services

PTF also offers consulting services and user access to specific PTF instruments. Our consulting services include 1) general consulting, such as with construct and experiment design or how to perform CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, 2) transformation of a new crop or genotype, and 3) method development. For instrument access, all work must be scheduled and approved in advance and performed in the facility during normal business hours. We provide training on and all necessary supplies for using the gene guns.

User access to PTF instruments

Gene guns (PDS-1000/He System stationary gene gun or Helios Gene Gun, variable pressure)Per bombardment$20$31

To initiate a service request, learn more about how PTF may contribute to your research program, request a letter of support for a grant proposal, or propose a collaboration, contact:

Matthew R. Willmann, Ph.D.
Director, Plant Transformation Facility
B18 Weill Hall
mrw6 [at]