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Plant Engineering to Improve Thermotolerance in Rice and Tomatoes

Paper Reviewed
Shen, H., Zhong, X., Zhao, F., Wang, Y., Yan, B., Li, Q., Chen, G., Mao, B., Wang, J., Li, Y., Xiao, G., He, Y., Xiao, H., Li, J. and He, Z. 2015. Overexpression of receptor-like kinase ERECTA improves thermo-tolerance in rice and tomato. Nature Biotechnology 33: 996-1003.

Concerned about the possibility that the detrimental effects of predicted global warming on crop productivity "threaten to reduce the world's food supply," Shen et al. (2015) also worried about the fact that the genetic modification of crops to improve thermo-tolerance had demonstrated what they describe as "little success to date." And, therefore, they decided to see if they could discover something that would have success in this regard.

Focusing on three transgenic lines of the Arabidopsis thaliana (mouse-ear cress) receptor-like kinase ERECTA (ER), the 15 Chinese scientists conducted field experiments on rice and tomato plants over the course of three summers (2012, 2013 and 2014) in Shanghai, Wuhan and Hainan, China. And this work revealed, as they discovered, that "transgenic tomato and rice lines overexpressing Arabidopsis ER showed improved heat tolerance in greenhouse and field tests." In addition, they discovered that "ER-overexpressing transgenic Arabidopsis, tomato and rice plants had increased biomass."

And the take-home message of their findings? Shen et al. say that they open the door, so to speak, "to engineering or breeding thermo-tolerant crops with no growth penalty." And, as they also add, with considerably-enhanced water use efficiency.

Posted 5 January 2016