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Plant Biotechnol J. 2008 Sep;6(7):722-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7652.2008.00351.x. Epub 2008 May 27.

Genetic engineering of improved nitrogen use efficiency in rice by the tissue-specific expression of alanine aminotransferase.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada.


Nitrogen is quantitatively the most essential nutrient for plants and a major factor limiting crop productivity. One of the critical steps limiting the efficient use of nitrogen is the ability of plants to acquire it from applied fertilizer. Therefore, the development of crop plants that absorb and use nitrogen more efficiently has been a long-term goal of agricultural research. In an attempt to develop nitrogen-efficient plants, rice (Oryza sativa L.) was genetically engineered by introducing a barley AlaAT (alanine aminotransferase) cDNA driven by a rice tissue-specific promoter (OsAnt1). This modification increased the biomass and grain yield significantly in comparison with control plants when plants were well supplied with nitrogen. Compared with controls, transgenic rice plants also demonstrated significant changes in key metabolites and total nitrogen content, indicating increased nitrogen uptake efficiency. The development of crop plants that take up and assimilate nitrogen more efficiently would not only improve the use of nitrogen fertilizers, resulting in lower production costs, but would also have significant environmental benefits. These results are discussed in terms of their relevance to the development of strategies to engineer enhanced nitrogen use efficiency in crop plants.

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