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Plant Biotechnol J. 2011 Oct;9(8):826-37. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7652.2011.00592.x. Epub 2011 May 30.

Introduction of the ZmDof1 gene into rice enhances carbon and nitrogen assimilation under low-nitrogen conditions.

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Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.


The excessive application of nitrogen fertilizer to maximize crop yields causes negative environmental effects such as pollution and ecological imbalance. To overcome this problem, researchers have attempted to improve the nitrogen assimilation capacity of crops. Maize Dof1 (ZmDof1) is a plant-specific transcription factor shown to promote nitrogen assimilation in Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis) even under nitrogen-deficient conditions. The present study examines the effect of the introduction of the ZmDof1 gene on carbon and nitrogen assimilation in rice. ZmDof1 induced the expression of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPC) genes in transgenic rice plants and transactivated the PEPC promoters in protoplast transient assays, showing similar effects in rice as in Arabidopsis. Transgenic rice expressing ZmDof1 and grown in the presence of 360 μm (nitrogen-sufficient) or 90 μm (nitrogen-deficient) of nitrogen concentrations showed modulation of metabolite content and gene expression associated with the anaplerotic pathway for the TCA cycle, suggesting an increased carbon flow towards nitrogen assimilation. Furthermore, increases in carbon and nitrogen amounts per seedling were found in Dof1 rice grown under nitrogen-deficient conditions. Nitrogen deficiency also resulted in the predominant distribution of nitrogen to roots, accompanied by significant increases in root biomass and modification of the shoot-to-root ratio. Measurement of the CO₂ gas exchange rate showed a significant increase in the net photosynthesis rate in Dof1 rice under nitrogen-deficient conditions. Taken these together, the present study displayed that ZmDof1 expression in rice could induce gene expressions such as PEPC genes, modulate carbon and nitrogen metabolites, increase nitrogen assimilation and enhance growth under low-nitrogen conditions.

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