One of the main challenges of modern agricultural biotechnology is
maximizing plant architecture to enhance productivity, stress tolerance, and
water use efficiency. Gibberelins (GAs) are known to regulate plant height
and tillering which are directly linked to grain yield in cereals. To
optimize these traits, the team of Shuen-Fang Lo from Academia Sinica and
National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan eased the levels of GAs in rice
GA 2-oxidase (GA2ox) is a key enzyme that inactivates endogenous GAs and
their precursors. The team focused on GA2ox6, which is known to regulate the
architecture and function of rice plants. The team then mutated nine
specific amino acids in this domain and observed a gradient of effects.
Expression of the GA2ox6 non-functioning mutants moderately lowered GA
levels, leading to reduced plant height, more productive tillers, expanded
root system, higher WUE and photosynthesis rate, and enhanced abiotic and
biotic stress tolerance in transgenic rice. Combinations of these traits
resulted in not only drought and disease tolerance, but also increased grain
yield in field trials.
This study holds the potential of manipulating GA levels to improve plant
architecture, stress tolerance, and grain yield in rice and possibly in
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