Water-efficient rice research

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Water-efficient rice research

Water-efficient rice research

Rice, one of the main world food staples, uses the less efficient C3 photosynthetic pathway. Scientists predict that the introduction of the more efficient C4 photosynthesis traits into rice can potentially increase photosynthetic efficiency by 50%, improve nitrogen use efficiency and double water use efficiency.

Published in the  Plant Biotechnology Journal (see attached) , a paper titled ‘Installation of C4 photosynthetic pathway enzymes in rice using a single construct’ explains how a research collaboration has successfully installed part of the photosynthetic machinery from maize into rice.

“We assembled five genes from maize that code for five enzymes in the C4 photosynthetic pathway into a single gene construct and installed it into rice plants,” said lead author Dr Maria Ermakova, who works at The Australian National University (ANU), as part of the international C4 Rice Project, led by Oxford University.

“Although introducing all the genes required to make C4 rice still a long way off, this is the first paper where we assembled a functional C4 biochemistry in rice, which is very exciting,” said Dr Ermakova, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis (CoETP).

Using synthetic biology, scientists can introduce several genes at the same time, get a plant in just a year and make prototypes to redesign their ‘constructs’ very rapidly, just in a matter of months. In sharp contrast, using the old approach, which inserts one single gene each time, can take several years.

“For me, the most important aspect of this paper is that we have mastered the technology that will help us in our journey towards C4 rice and now we can move forward to the next phase at a higher velocity than ever before,” said CoETP’s Deputy Director Professor Susanne von Caemmerer, one of the co-authors of this study.

Using the same kind of technique that Hal Hatch used in 1966 during the discovery of the C4 pathway, the team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute were able to follow the labelled CO2 on its way through the pathway.



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