Crop Biotech Update

Maize Gene Improves Drought Tolerance and Grain Yield in Rice

March 14, 2018

Phytochrome-interacting factors (PIFs) are known to regulate plant growth and development, but their roles in drought stress remain unknown. Researchers led by Yong Gao from Yangzhou University in China studied the function of a maize (Zea mays) PIF transcription factor, ZmPIF1.

The expression level of ZmPIF1 was found to be induced by drought and abscisic acid (ABA) treatments. The team then expressed ZmPIF1 in rice and Arabidopsis. Both transgenic rice and Arabidopsis displayed water saving and drought resistance traits, which were associated with reduced a stomatal aperture and transpiration rate.

The ZmPIF1 transgenic rice plants were found to be hypersensitive to ABA treatment without any changes in endogenous ABA level. This suggests that ZmPIF1 was a positive regulator of the ABA signaling pathway. In addition, ZmPIF1 was able to increase the grain yield through an increase in tiller and panicle numbers in transgenic rice.

Based on the results, ZmPIF1 is vital in the ABA-controlled regulation of stomatal closure to control water loss and it can enhance drought resistance and yield in rice.

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