Scientists from Bose Institute in Kolkata, India developed a salt tolerant
transgenic rice variety which, under greenhouse conditions, showed normal
growth and grain yield.
The scientists used genes from the wild rice species Porteresia coarctata.
This species, native to some parts of South Asia, is known to be a
halophyte, thus a rich source of salt stress tolerance genes. They were able
to identify a gene, PcINO1, that codes for a salt-tolerant enzyme that
synthesizes inositol even in the presence of salt. Inositol is a
vitamin-like substance that acts as a stress-ameliorator and a switch to
pathways important for communicating salt tolerance. By overexpressing
PcINO1 into the commonly used IR64 indica rice variety, they developed a new
variety that can withstand up to 200mcmol per Li of salt, or about half as
saline as seawater. According to the head scientist, this may also indicate
that the manipulation of inositol metabolic pathway may be one way to combat
salt stress in plants.
The significance of the new findings is important to the development of
plant varieties that can survive salinity and drought as concerns and
discussions about global climate change become more apparent.