Crop Biotech Update

Researchers in Japan Identify Genes to Help Crops Against Flooding

October 5, 2022

Flooding has become a global concern, putting people at risk of starvation due to water drowning crops. Now, researchers are getting closer to identifying the molecular processes underlying how floods deprive plants of oxygen — and how to engineer hardier crops.

“Hypoxia is an abiotic stress for plants often caused by flooding,” said the paper's first author Keita Tamura. Hypoxia is a condition where plants are deprived of oxygen because of oversaturation. The team from Hiroshima University's Graduate School of Integrated Sciences for Life has uncovered several common genes and their related mechanisms in rice (Oryza sativa) and thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana). The researchers focused on rice and thale cress since the genetics of the two plants have been extensively studied, providing ample amounts of data. The research team identified 29 pairs of RNA-sequencing data for thale cress and 26 pairs for rice for the plants in both normal oxygen and oxygen-deprived states from the available datasets.

“By analyzing RNA-sequencing data of hypoxia treatments in thale cress and rice, we identified 40 and 19 commonly upregulated and downregulated genes in both species,” said corresponding author Hidesama Bono. According to Bono, this common upregulation means that these molecular machineries became more active during oxygen deprivation, indicating their specific responsibilities for plant response. Bono and Tamura compared the results of their study to a similar meta-analysis of hypoxia in human cells and tissue samples. They found two of the commonly upregulated genes in rice and thale cress were downregulated in their human counterparts.

“Our meta-analysis suggests distinct molecular mechanisms under hypoxia in plants and animals,” Bono said. “The candidate genes identified in this study are expected to elucidate novel molecular mechanisms of hypoxia responses in plants. Ultimately, we plan to manipulate one of the candidate genes through genome editing technology to create flood-tolerant plants.”

For more details, read the article on the Hiroshima University website. The results of the study are published in Life.

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