Biotech Updates

Regulating Transcription Regulators for Second Generation Biotech Crops

May 2, 2008

There has been a growing expectation that the biotech industry will deliver ‘second generation’ transgenic crops in the near future. Unlike first generation GM crops which involves manipulation of monogenic traits, such as herbicide tolerance and insect resistance, second generation crops will involve modification of traits under the control of multiple genes such as stress resistance and yield stability. Scientists involved in efforts to produce these crops will greatly benefit from recent discoveries in the field of genomics, including the availability of complete plant genome sequences. Transcription factors (TFs), proteins that regulate gene expression, are expected to be excellent candidates for modifying complex traits in crop plants. A new article published by the journal Plant Physiology reviews the prospects for modification of crops by regulating these transcription regulators.

Modifying the activity of TFs involved in photosynthesis may lead to crops with increased yield. The same approach might be exploited to develop plants that are disease tolerant, stress resistant and nitrogen-use efficient. For instance, the HARDY gene has recently been shown to enhance drought tolerance and photosynthetic efficiency in transgenic rice. TF technologies, however, often require optimization, either to reduce unwanted side effects such as growth retardation or to enhance the desired trait to the level at which it is of commercial value.

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