Grain yield is controlled by quantitative trait loci (QTLs) derived from natural variations in many crop plants. Here we report the molecular characterization of a major rice grain yield QTL that acts through the determination of panicle architecture. The dominant allele at the DEP1 locus is a gain-of-function mutation causing truncation of a phosphatidylethanolamine-binding protein-like domain protein. The effect of this allele is to enhance meristematic activity, resulting in a reduced length of the inflorescence internode, an increased number of grains per panicle and a consequent increase in grain yield. This allele is common to many Chinese high-yielding rice varieties and likely represents a relatively recent introduction into the cultivated rice gene pool. We also show that a functionally equivalent allele is present in the temperate cereals and seems to have arisen before the divergence of the wheat and barley lineages.
A high-density haplotype map recently enabled a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in a population of indica subspecies of Chinese rice landraces. Here we extend this methodology to a larger and more diverse sample of 950 worldwide rice varieties, including the Oryza sativa indica and Oryza sativa japonica subspecies, to perform an additional GWAS. We identified a total of 32 new loci associated with flowering time and with ten grain-related traits, indicating that the larger sample increased the power to detect trait-associated variants using GWAS. To characterize various alleles and complex genetic variation, we developed an analytical framework for haplotype-based de novo assembly of the low-coverage sequencing data in rice. We identified candidate genes for 18 associated loci through detailed annotation. This study shows that the integrated approach of sequence-based GWAS and functional genome annotation has the potential to match complex traits to their causal polymorphisms in rice.
The ability of wheat to maintain a low sodium concentration ([Na+]) in leaves correlates with improved growth under saline conditions(1,2). This trait, termed Na+ exclusion, contributes to the greater salt tolerance of bread wheat relative to durum wheat(3,4). To improve the salt tolerance of durum wheat, we explored natural diversity in shoot Na+ exclusion within ancestral wheat germplasm. Previously, we showed that crossing of Nax2, a gene locus in the wheat relative Triticum monococcum into a commercial durum wheat (Triticum turgidum ssp. durum var. Tamaroi) reduced its leaf [Na+] (ref. 5). Here we show that a gene in the Nax2 locus, TmHKT1; 5-A, encodes a Na+-selective transporter located on the plasma membrane of root cells surrounding xylem vessels, which is therefore ideally localized to withdraw Na+ from the xylem and reduce transport of Na+ to leaves. Field trials on saline soils demonstrate that the presence of TmHKT1; 5-A significantly reduces leaf [Na+] and increases durum wheat grain yield by 25% compared to near-isogenic lines without the Nax2 locus.
Plant architecture, a complex of the important agronomic traits that determine grain yield, is a primary target of artificial selection of rice domestication and improvement. Some important genes affecting plant architecture and grain yield have been isolated and characterized in recent decades; however, their underlying mechanism remains to be elucidated. Here, we report genetic identification and functional analysis of the PLANT ARCHITECTURE AND YIELD 1 ( PAY 1 ) gene in rice, which affects plant architecture and grain yield in rice. Transgenic plants over‐expressing PAY 1 had twice the number of grains per panicle and consequently produced nearly 38% more grain yield per plant than control plants. Mechanistically, PAY 1 could improve plant architecture via affecting polar auxin transport activity and altering endogenous indole‐3‐acetic acid distribution. Furthermore, introgression of PAY 1 into elite rice cultivars, using marker‐assisted background selection, dramatically increased grain yield compared with the recipient parents. Overall, these results demonstrated that PAY 1 could be a new beneficial genetic resource for shaping ideal plant architecture and breeding high‐yielding rice varieties. This study describes the identification and functional analysis of the PLANT ARCHITECTURE AND YIELD 1 ( PAY 1 ) gene in rice, which affects plant architecture and grain yield in rice. PAY 1 can optimize plant architecture through altering auxin polar transport and distribution, leading to more desirable plant architecture and increased grain yield in rice.
Drought poses a serious threat to the sustainability of rice (Oryza sativa) yields in rain-fed agriculture. Here, we report the results of a functional genomics approach that identified a rice NAC (an acronym for NAM [No Apical Meristem], ATAF1-2, and CUC2 [Cup-Shaped Cotyledon]) domain gene, OsNAC10, which improved performance of transgenic rice plants under field drought conditions. Of the 140 OsNAC genes predicted in rice, 18 were identified to be induced by stress conditions. Phylogenic analysis of the 18 OsNAC genes revealed the presence of three subgroups with distinct signature motifs. A group of OsNAC genes were prescreened for enhanced stress tolerance when overexpressed in rice. OsNAC10, one of the effective members selected from prescreening, is expressed predominantly in roots and panicles and induced by drought, high salinity, and abscisic acid. Overexpression of OsNAC10 in rice under the control of the constitutive promoter GOS2 and the root-specific promoter RCc3 increased the plant tolerance to drought, high salinity, and low temperature at the vegetative stage. More importantly, the RCc3:OsNAC10 plants showed significantly enhanced drought tolerance at the reproductive stage, increasing grain yield by 25% to 42% and by 5% to 14% over controls in the field under drought and normal conditions, respectively. Grain yield of GOS2:OsNAC10 plants in the field, in contrast, remained similar to that of controls under both normal and drought conditions. These differences in performance under field drought conditions reflect the differences in expression of OsNAC10-dependent target genes in roots as well as in leaves of the two transgenic plants, as revealed by microarray analyses. Root diameter of the RCc3:OsNAC10 plants was thicker by 1.25-fold than that of the GOS2:OsNAC10 and nontransgenic plants due to the enlarged stele, cortex, and epidermis. Overall, our results demonstrated that root-specific overexpression of OsNAC10 enlarges roots, enhancing drought tolerance of transgenic plants, which increases grain yield significantly under field drought conditions.
Increasing grain yield is the most important object of crop breeding. Here, we report that the elevated expression of a conserved microRNA, OsmiR408, could positively regulate grain yield in rice (Oryza sativa) by increasing panicle branches and grain number. We further showed that OsmiR408 regulates grain yield by down-regulating its downstream target, OsUCL8, which is an uclacyanin (UCL) gene of the phytocyanin family. The knock down or knock out of OsUCL8 also increases grain yield, while the overexpression of OsUCL8 results in an opposite phenotype. Spatial and temporal expression analyses showed that OsUCL8 was highly expressed in pistils, young panicles, developing seeds, and inflorescence meristem and was nearly complementary to that of OsmiR408. Interestingly, the OsUCL8 protein was localized to the cytoplasm, distinct from a majority of phytocyanins, which localize to the plasma membrane. Further studies revealed that the cleavage of OsUCL8 by miR408 affects copper homeostasis in the plant cell, which, in turn, affects the abundance of plastocyanin proteins and photosynthesis in rice. To our knowledge, this is the first report of the effects of miR408-OsUCL8 in regulating rice photosynthesis and grain yield. Our study further broadens the perspective of microRNAs and UCLs and provides important information for breeding high-yielding crops through genetic engineering.
We reported that knockdown of OsDCL3b decreased grain yield but increased grain quality in rice, which is helpful for molecular breeding in crops.Multiple DICER-LIKE (DCL) genes usually exist and show diverse biochemical and phenotypic functions in land plants. In rice, the biochemical function of OsDCL3b is known to process 24-nucleotide panicle phased small RNAs, however, its phenotypic functions are unclear. Here we reported that knockdown of OsDCL3b led to reduced pollen fertility, seed setting rate, and decreased grain yield but increased grain quality in rice. To reveal the molecular mechanism of the above phenomena, extracted RNAs from rice panicles of the wild type (WT) and OsDCL3b-RNAi line S6-1 were analyzed by deep sequencing. It showed that knockdown of OsDCL3b affected the biogenesis of both 21- and 24-nucleotide small RNAs including miRNAs and phased small RNAs. Using RNA-seq, 644 up- and 530 down-regulated mRNA genes were identified in panicles of line S6-1, and 550 and 273 differentially spliced genes with various alternative splicing (AS) events were observed in panicles of line S6-1 and WT, respectively, suggesting that OsDCL3b involved in influencing the transcript levels of mRNA genes and the AS events in rice panicles. Thus, our results show that knockdown of OsDCL3b will affect the biogenesis of small RNAs, which is involved in regulating the transcription of mRNA genes, and consequently influence the grain yield and quality in rice.
Maize ARGOS 8 is a negative regulator of ethylene responses. A previous study has shown that transgenic plants constitutively overexpressing ARGOS 8 have reduced ethylene sensitivity and improved grain yield under drought stress conditions. To explore the targeted use of ARGOS 8 native expression variation in drought‐tolerant breeding, a diverse set of over 400 maize inbreds was examined for ARGOS 8 mRNA expression, but the expression levels in all lines were less than that created in the original ARGOS 8 transgenic events. We then employed a CRISPR ‐Cas‐enabled advanced breeding technology to generate novel variants of ARGOS 8 . The native maize GOS 2 promoter, which confers a moderate level of constitutive expression, was inserted into the 5′‐untranslated region of the native ARGOS 8 gene or was used to replace the native promoter of ARGOS 8. Precise genomic DNA modification at the ARGOS 8 locus was verified by PCR and sequencing. The ARGOS 8 variants had elevated levels of ARGOS 8 transcripts relative to the native allele and these transcripts were detectable in all the tissues tested, which was the expected results using the GOS 2 promoter. A field study showed that compared to the WT , the ARGOS 8 variants increased grain yield by five bushels per acre under flowering stress conditions and had no yield loss under well‐watered conditions. These results demonstrate the utility of the CRISPR ‐Cas9 system in generating novel allelic variation for breeding drought‐tolerant crops.
Crop yield stability requires an attenuation of the reduction of yield losses caused by environmental stresses such as drought. Using a combination of metabolomics and high-throughput colorimetric assays, we analysed central metabolism and oxidative stress status in the flag leaf of 292 indica rice (Oryza sativa) accessions. Plants were grown in the field and were, at the reproductive stage, exposed to either well-watered or drought conditions to identify the metabolic processes associated with drought-induced grain yield loss. Photorespiration, protein degradation and nitrogen recycling were the main processes involved in the drought-induced leaf metabolic reprogramming. Molecular markers of drought tolerance and sensitivity in terms of grain yield were identified using a multivariate model based on the values of the metabolites and enzyme activities across the population. The model highlights the central role of the ascorbate-glutathione cycle, particularly dehydroascorbate reductase, in minimizing drought-induced grain yield loss. In contrast, malondialdehyde was an accurate biomarker for grain yield loss, suggesting that drought-induced lipid peroxidation is the major constraint under these conditions. These findings highlight new breeding targets for improved rice grain yield stability under drought.