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N Biotechnol. 2010 Nov 30;27(5):473-7. doi: 10.1016/j.nbt.2010.08.005. Epub 2010 Aug 17.

Transgenic crops coping with water scarcity.

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Dipartimento di Scienze Biomolecolari e Biotecnologie, Università degli Studi di Milano, Via Celoria 26, 20133 Milano, Italy.


Water scarcity is a serious problem that will be exacerbated by global climate change. Massive quantities of water are used in agriculture, and abiotic stresses, especially drought and increased salinity, are primary causes of crop loss worldwide. Various approaches may be adopted to consume less water in agriculture, one of them being the development of plants that use less water yet maintain high yields in conditions of water scarcity. In recent years several molecular networks concerned with stress perception, signal transduction and stress responses in plants have been elucidated. Consequently, engineering some of the genes involved in these mechanisms promises to enhance plant tolerance to stresses and in particular increase their water use efficiency. Here we review the various approaches used so far to produce transgenic plants having improved tolerance to abiotic stresses, and discuss criteria for choosing which genes to work on (functional and regulatory genes) and which gene expression promoters (constitutive, inducible, and cell-specific) have been used to obtain successful results.

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