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A Fix to Aluminum Tolerance to Open Arable Land
Monday, 2014/05/12 | 05:49:25

Cornell University agricultural scientists have discovered that a gene and the protein it expresses play a major role in allowing rice tolerance to toxic metal in acidic soils. Leon Kochian, senior author of the paper, co-directs the project with Cornell rice geneticist Susan McCouch.


The researchers had previously targeted the NRAT1 gene in McCouch's lab to genetically map aluminum tolerance using diverse lines of rice. Based on the resulting DNA sequences, they identified aluminum tolerant- and aluminum-sensitive versions of the NRAT1 gene. They found key sequence alterations, which resulted in a tolerant NRAT1 protein that effectively transported aluminum ions from the root cell wall into the cell, preventing aluminum toxicity that occurs in rice due to damage to the cell wall in the growing root tip. They also found sequence differences that led to higher expression of the NRAT1 gene in the tolerant rice lines. The researchers then inserted the tolerant and sensitive versions of the rice NRAT1 genes into Arabidopsis plants and found that both versions, but especially the aluminum-tolerant NRAT1 gene, greatly boosted aluminum tolerance in Arabidopsis plants.


The research findings suggest that this gene can be used to increase the aluminum tolerance of rice and other plant species, which would be beneficial for crop species often grown on acid soils throughout the world.


For more about this research, read http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2014/04/aluminum-tolerance-fix-could-open-arable-land.



Figure: This map shows soil acidity worldwide. Aluminum toxicity in acidic soils limits crop production in close to half the world's arable land, mostly in developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America.

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