Japanese and Colombian scientists have engineered drought-resistant transgenic rice, which is good news in this warming, increasingly crowded world.
The rice strains that were modified with a gene from the Arabidopsis – a common mustard plant – produced more rice than natural strains did when subjected to drought stress, the researchers report in Plant Biotechnology Journal.
Geneticists love working with Arabidopsis, which is small, simple and was the first plant to have its DNA fully sequenced. It has become the go-to model and benchmark for researching plant biology.
In nature, drought conditions lead plants to produce osmoprotectants – molecules that help it retain water. One osmoprotectant in rice is called galactinol, which the plant makes using an enzyme called galactinol synthase.