Researchers identify gene that may help improve rice yield

September 29th, 2008 - 4:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 29 (IANS) A gene in rice identified by scientists, that controls the size and weight of the grains, might open the way to high-yield variant and benefit vast numbers for whom it is staple.”Our work shows that it is possible to increase rice yield by enhancing the expression of a particular gene,” said Hont Ma, professor at the Pennsylvania State University.

Researchers first searched for and identified mutant strains of rice that exhibited underweight grains. “We found a particular mutant that is defective in its ability to produce normal-sized grains,” said Zuhua He, a biology professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the leader of the team.

The group then examined the mutant and found that it carried a mutation within the GIF1 gene. “The GIF1 gene is responsible for controlling the activity of the enzyme invertase, which is located in the cell wall and converts sucrose to substances that then are used to create starch,” said He.

“Invertase is important in the formation of starch within developing grains of rice. If invertase is not active, the rice plant cannot produce edible grains,” he added.

The team then created transgenic lines of rice in which the GIF1 gene is overexpressed and found that, compared with normal strains, the transgenic rice had larger and heavier grains, according to a release of Pennsylvania State University.

The team’s results was published on Sunday in early online edition of Nature Genetics and is scheduled for publication in its November print issue.

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