Enhanced drought tolerance in rice confirmed

April 4, 2017

A new step toward resolving future food shortages due to population increase

RIKEN CSRS, Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and the University of Tsukuba have jointly developed a genetically modified rice plant with enhanced drought tolerance by introducing an Arabidopsis galactinol synthase gene (AtGolS2) into a popular breed of rice.

RIKEN previously reported in 2002 that galactinol, a member of the raffinose family of oligosaccharides, plays an important role in plant drought resistance. Arabidopsis plants with overexpressed AtGolS2 contain a significant amount of galactinol, enabling the plant to survive long periods in a drought environment.

The international research group tested the developed rice plant in a dry field owned by CIAT in Columbia. Compared to the original rice variety, the transgenic rice accumulated more than 70 times the amount of galactinol. Over a testing period of several years, the transgenic rice also withstood severe drought conditions, including a no-rain period of more than 30 days, while maintaining a high crop yield that reached a maximum of 157 percent per unit area.

The research group aims to conduct a large scale on-site cultivation experiment in Africa and South America with this rice plant, with an objective of realizing a steady, increased yield of 20-30% in dry conditions. Since AtGolS2 can be isolated from Arabidopsis, a widely known and commonly used model plant, introducing the gene into the main rice breeds in other locales can be expected to produce similar effects.

Original article
Plant Biotechnology Journal doi:10.1111/pbi.12731
M. G. Selvaraj, T. Ishizaki, M. Valencia, S. Ogawa, B. Dedicova, T. Ogata, K. Yoshiwara, K. Maruyama, M. Kusano, K. Saito, F. Takahashi, K. Shinozaki, K. Nakashima, M. Ishitani,
"Overexpression of an Arabidopsis thaliana galactinol synthase gene improves drought tolerance in transgenic rice and increased grain yield in the field".
Kazuo Shinozaki; Group Director
Fuminori Takahashi; Research Scientist
Gene Discovery Research Group