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New Strategy for Rice Plant Resilience to Change in Climate Conditions

Researchers find novel technique to enhance rice productivity through maintenance of sugar homeostasis.

Stressors from harsh climate conditions such as drought, flooding, and high temperatures can affect food production, making it challenging to achieve efficient growth of crops and maintain productivity.

Recent research discoveries by a research team led by Su-May Yu, distinguished research fellow and academician, Institute of Molecular Biology, Academia Sinica, demonstrated that maintaining sugar homeostasis of plants can translate to better sustainability of crops even during harsh climates.

Sugar levels in plants are kept in check through molecular mechanisms activated in response to changes in these levels. However, these mechanisms that regulate the gene expression in maintaining sugar homeostasis still remains elusive.

Previously, Dr. Yu’s research group discovered that the expression of α-amylase (αAmy), was inhibited by high levels of sugar. Some studies have also shown the association between the expression of αAmy and induced stress and pathogenic infections, these molecular mechanisms likewise were not well understood.

In the recent publication, the research team displayed the results that the expression of αAmy is regulated by two competing transcription factors, MYBS1 and MYBS2. At low sugar levels, MYBS1 will promote αAmy synthesis, while at high sugar levels, MYBS2 will inhibit αAmy expression.

When the plants were under stress such as drought, high temperatures, and osmotic stress, MYBS2 expression was suppressed causing αAmy to be expressed at high levels. This provides evidence to the increased expression of αAmy when plants are under stress and demonstrates the need for it in maintenance during adverse climate conditions.

This discovery provides for the first time a molecular switch that can be a precursor for the development of future gene editing techniques that can be applied to manipulate the function and expression of MYBS2 and αAmy for improving production of crops such as rice to overcome food challenges such as shortages due to drastic climate conditions. The team has also filed for patent for this technology. [APBN]