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Disruption of a Small Non-coding RNA Leads to Better Rice Yield
Saturday, 2019/10/05 | 08:17:48

Figure: Morphological and growth phenotypes of mir396ef plants. (A) Gross morphologies of WT and mir396ef plants at maturity. Scale bar, 10 cm. (B) Plant height of WT and mir396ef. (C) Tiller number per plant of WT and mir396ef. (D-F) Leaf (D), panicle (E) and panicle branching (F) phenotypes of WT and mir396ef plants. Scale bars, 50 mm in D; 30 mm in E and F. (G-K) Flag leaf blade length (G), flag leaf blade width (H) panicle length (I), number of primary branching per panicle (J) and grain number per panicle (K) of WT and mir396ef plants. (L) Grain yield per plot of WT and mir396ef with nitrogen fertilization. One hundred plants (10×10) were cultivated in 2.0×2.0(m) plots. (M) Cell length of grain spikelet hulls in WT and mir396ef plants. (N) Cell number of spikelet hull palea and lemma in WT and mir396ef plants. (O) Cross-sections of spikelet hulls of WT and mir396ef plants, and magnified view of the boxed cross section area. The red line indicates the position of the cross-section. The rectangle indicates the position of the magnification of hull. The red arrow points to the palea cells. Scale bars, 50 μm. (P) Scanning election microscopy images of the outer surface of glume in WT and mir396ef. Scale bars, 100μm. Data are presented as means ± SD (n=20 in B, C, G-K, M; n=5 in L and N). P values (versus the wild type) were calculated with Student’s t-test, two-tailed. *, P < 0.05; **, P < 0.01. NS: Not Significant


Previous studies have shown the microRNA miR396 prevents rice GROWTH-REGULATING FACTORS (OsGRFs) and regulates rice yields and nitrogen assimilation. When miR396 is overexpressed, it targets OsGRF4 and OsGRF6, improving rice yield. Scientists at Chinese Academy of Sciences used CRISPR-Cas9 to evaluate more functions of miR396 in rice.


Dysfunctional MIR396ef led to improved grain size and panicle branching, leading to better yield. When the mutant rice plants were placed in nitrogen-deficient conditions, grain yield was much higher as well as the above-ground biomass. The researchers pinpointed OcGRF8 as the new target of miR396, in addition to previously identified targets. Disruption of the miR396 targeting site in OSGRF8 was enough to improve grain size and elongate panicles.


Based on the findings, rice seed and panicle development are controlled by miR396ef-GRF4/6/8-GIF1/2/3 modules, and that miR396ef are potential targets of genome editing for development of better rice varieties that require less nitrogen fertilization.


Read the complete manuscript at National Science Review.

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