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Crop Biotech Update

Development of Low-Cesium Rice Plants via CRISPR-Cas

July 19, 2017

Occurrence of radiocesium in food has raised health concerns after nuclear accidents. Despite being present at low concentrations in contaminated soils, cesium (Cs+) can still be taken up by crops and transported to their edible parts. Such a plant capacity to take up Cs+ from low concentrations has affected the production of rice (Oryza sativa L.) in Japan after the nuclear accident at Fukushima in 2011.

Manuel Nieves-Cordones from CEBAS-CSIC, together wuith researchers from various universities and institutions worldwide, recently reported the inactivation of the Cs+-permeable K+ transporter, OsHAK1, using the CRISPR-Cas system, which then reduced Cs+ uptake by rice plants.

In rice, Cs+ uptake is dependent on two functional properties of OsHAK1: a poor capacity of the plant system to discriminate between Cs+ and potassium (K+), and a high capacity to transport Cs+ from very low external concentrations. In an experiment with a Fukushima soil highly contaminated with 137Cs+, transformed rice plants lacking OsHAK1 function displayed significantly reduced levels of 137Cs+ in roots and shoots.

These results open new perspectives to produce safe food in regions contaminated by nuclear accidents.

For more information, read the article in The Plant Journal.