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Crop Biotech Update

Gene Switches for Height Identified in Plants

July 29, 2020

Scientists were able to identify two key genes responsible for the plant height in rice plants, opening up numerous possibilities of breeding varieties with desirable height and yield traits of not just rice but other crops that also carry the same genes.

The scientists divided their work into two investigations: one focused on deep-water rice variety and the other focused on shallow-water rice variety and both were studied under greenhouse conditions. They were able to identify two important genes. First, the accelerator of internode elongation (ACE1) that turns on when the deep-water variety is covered in water and stimulates cell division in stems causing the plant to grow. This was found to be mutated in the shallow-water variety. The second is decelerator of internode elongation (DEC1) which suppresses stem growth. This was found to be active in the shallow-water variety even when the plant was submerged in water, but was found to stop expressing in deep-water variety when exposed to flooding. Scientists described the two genes as switches for plant height.

Another interesting fact is that the two genes are not only found in rice, but they are also present in other plants such as sugarcane, barley, and the grass Brachypodium distachyon. ACE1 is also found in corn, and the crop also has the gene-equivalent of DEC1. The genes' discovery can lead to the development of plant varieties that are resistant to stress factors brought by climate change. The possibilities vary from developing improved low-yield varieties already adapted to seasonal flooding to improved high-yield shorter varieties that can withstand flooding.

Read the full details in Nature.

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