Helping Rice And Tomato Plants Take The Heat

The receptor-like kinase ERECTA could help improve the heat resistance of key commercial crops such as rice and tomatoes.

AsianScientist (Sep. 3, 2015) – Scientists have identified a region of the genome that allows plants to resist temperatures as high as 40°C. This quantitative trait locus (QTL)—called qHat2-1—also confers disease resistance to pathogens. The study documenting these findings has been published in Nature Biotechnology.

Global warming has greatly affected our environment, and temperature increases significantly affect plant growth and seriously threaten crop production. For example, the heat wave of the 2013 summer in Eastern China had a devastating impact on crops.

Despite the urgent need for thermotolerant plants, genetic engineering to enhance plant tolerance to high temperature conditions has been rarely reported. Therefore, discovery and application of more thermotolerance genes are critical to heat resistance in crops.

Dr. He Zhuhua and colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have found a QTL gene that encodes for the receptor-like kinase ERECTA (ER), which confers temperature tolerant properties to crops. In particular, they observed that the loss-of-function ER mutants exhibit hypersensitivity to heat, whereas ER overexpression confers high thermotolerance in the model plant Arabidopsis.

They further established that ER could prevent heat-induced cell damage likely through activating a cell protection pathway. Field tests at multiple locations and seasons gave evidence that ER overexpression could enhance heat tolerance of transgenic tomato and rice during the summer.

Moreover, they found that loss-of-function mutation of a rice ER homolog or low-expressed tomato ER alleles decreased thermotolerance, whereas highly-expressed tomato ER alleles increased thermotolerance.

Importantly, ER-overexpressing transgenic plants display increased biomass, enhanced water use efficiency and drought tolerance, favoring agronomy. This study thus reveals a promising tool for breeding crops with high thermotolerance without sacrificing crop yield.

The article can be found at: Shen et al. (2015) Overexpression of Receptor-Like Kinase ERECTA Improves Thermotolerance in Rice and Tomato.


Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences; Photo: olly301/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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