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Crop Biotech Update

High Yielding and Stress Tolerant Rice by Insertion Mutagenesis

September 28, 2007

Rice is a staple food for millions of people in the developing world. Increasing demands for rice, brought by increasing population, necessitates ways to increase its production. One strategy is to develop different varieties expressing desirable traits by modern breeding technology. Using a maize Ac/Ds transposon insertion mutagenesis system, a group of Chinese scientists obtained stress tolerant and high yielding rice varieties. In this system, endogenous genes are modified through random insertion of certain DNA fragments throughout the rice genome.

Random Ds insertions in the rice genome led to a total of 20,000 varieties, most of which exhibit diverse morphological and conditional phenotypes. The scientists claimed that this is the first time that insertional mutagenesis is used to produce desirable traits for breeding purposes. The study also suggests that the grain yield of rice can be improved by disruption of certain endogenous genes. The mutant lines that have higher seed yielding potential or display higher tolerance to abiotic stresses may be used for rice breeding by conventional backcrossing in combination with DNA marker-assisted selection.

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