Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, NARO

image The Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, NARO (NIAS) focuses on understanding the biological phenomena of agriculturally important plants, insects, microbes and animals to create innovative technologies, and eventually contribute to the solution of global issues such as food shortage due to rapid population growth and environmental problems due to climate change. NIAS is doing research and development to create new industries and new demands in the field of agricultural and medicinal industries by applying genetic engineering technologies to plants, insects and animals. In plants, for example, we are developing new rice varieties resistant to major diseases including blast. Moreover, we will include non-clinical and clinical research trials of rice-based edible vaccines for curing cedar pollinosis. In insects, we are developing medicinal materials from silk protein and medicines for humans and animals using transgenic silkworm. Furthermore, we are developing transgenic pigs to produce immune-deficit pigs and animal models for human diseases.


Evolution of resistance against bacteria that obliterate male insects

insectA research collaboration of the Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, NARO (NIAS), Chiba University and University of the Ryukus has shown that the male population of the insect green lacewing (Mallada desjardinsi) was extremely low due to high frequency of infection by the male-killing bacteria Spiroplasma. Subsequent study after five years revealed that the green lacewing population in the field has recovered due to the rapid evolution of the genetic resistance against the male-killing bacteria. This research result is a direct evidence of evolutionary arms race that arises between the sex-manipulating bacteria and the host insect.Read more.

A regulator gene for extreme desiccation tolerance identified

insect The research group of Dr. Takahiro Kikawada and Dr. Richard Cornette of the Molecular Biomimetics Research Unit, Division of Biotechnology, in collaboration with the research group of Dr. Oleg Gusev from the RIKEN Innovation Center have discovered that a heat shock transcription factor gene (Hsf1) can control extreme desiccation tolerance in the sleeping chironomid (Polypedilum vanderplanki ), a mosquito-like insect found in semi-arid areas of Africa and known for its desiccation tolerance (anhydrobiosis). Read more.

Highly efficient production of silk with chemical handles that can bind functional components

silkNARO has developed a genetically modified silkworm that can easily bind functional components into silk proteins using the genetic code expansion strategy. Silkworm was engineered to incorporate unnatural amino acids with chemical handles into silk proteins to bind desired functional components such as pigments and drugs which can conveniently and flexibly enhance the properties of silk. The fundamental technology was first developed in 2014, and this time, NARO in collaboration with the RIKEN Center for Life Science Technologies has successfully increased the efficiency of incorporating chemical handles into silk proteins up to 30-fold, paving the way for practical production.Read more.

Identification of a rice sensor for a bacterial molecule, LPS, that activates plant immune system

A joint collaboration of the NIAS with Meiji University and the University of Naples (Italy) identified a sensor protein (OsCERK1) for a bacterial-specific molecule, lipopolysaccharide (LPS), that activates immune responses in rice. OsCERK1 is a receptor-like kinase and proteins similar to OsCERK1 are conserved in a wide range of plant species. OsCERK1 is structurally different from the previously reported LPS sensor, which exists only in Brassicaceae plants. Since OsCERK1 is also a sensor for a fungal-specific immune-response inducer, chitin, these results are expected to lead to the development of efficient disease control technology for crops against both pathogenic fungi and bacteria. Read more.

Affinity silk for detection of carcinoembryonic antigen

Press Release 2017.11.24

A novel affinity silk protein that can be utilized as an alternative diagnostic tool for cancers was successfully developed by transgenic silkworm technology. The transgenic silkworm expressed a cDNA construct derived from a monoclonal antibody against carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA). Using this affinity silk, an ELISA plate that can quantitatively detect CEA, a tumor marker for gastrointestinal cancer has been developed. It is expected that various disease diagnosis kits can be provided cheaply using this technology. Read more.

Wheat transformation method using biolistic DNA delivery

Press Release 2017.11.8

The NIAS in collaboration with Kaneka Corporation developed a simple and reproducible in planta wheat transformation method in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) using biolistic DNA delivery. This strategy does not require cell culture or regeneration and is applicable to various wheat cultivars where genetic transformation has been difficult until now. It is expected that efficient utilization of this method could generate stable transgenic lines for a wide range of commercial wheat cultivars.Read more.

US Embassy staff visited NIAS

Press Release 2017.05.01

Mr. Christopher Riker, Senior Attache and Chief Agricultural Officer, and Mr. Taku Sato, Agricultural Specialist of the US Embassy in Japan visited the Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, NARO on April 25th, 2017 and met with Dr. Koh-ichi Kadowaki (NIAS Director-General), Mr. Kazumasa Shioya (NARO Vice-President for Research Collaboration) and NIAS researchers. They also visited the NIAS facilities for cultivation of genetically modified rice and silkworm research. Read more.

Plasmas promote protein introduction in plants

Press Release 2017.02.10

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology and Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, NARO, have developed a technique for introducing proteins into plant cells using plasma treatment. Their method could have multiple applications in plant research and industry. The introduction of organic matter, such as proteins, into living cells has multiple uses for basic scientific research and industrial techniques. For example, the behavior of cell components can be traced by introducing a protein that emits a fluorescent signal into the cell. While scientists have long been successful in delivering proteins into living animal cells, there are difficulties in using the same techniques for plant studies. Read more .

New Glowing Silk Dress

Press Release 2016.07.20

The glowing silk evening gowns created using fluorescent silk materials developed by the Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, NARO (NIAS) using genetic recombination technology in silkworm, were presented in the 2016 Yumi Katsura Grand Collection in Osaka held at the Osaka Imperial Hotel on July 20, 2016. The glowing silk dresses were jointly produced by Hama-Chirimen Kogyo Cooperative Association, Yumi Katsura International, and NARO. Read more .

Start of rearing transgenic silkworm

Press Release 2016.06.08

The experimental plan for rearing of transgenic silkworm for FY2016 has been announced. This year, transgenic silkworm used for production of blue and orange-color fluorescent silk as well as deep staining silk will be reared. The announcement of this year's schedule including the procedure for rearing and assessment of risk to biological diversity was held at the Gunma Sericultural Technology Center in Maeba City, Gunma Prefecture on June 30, 2016. Press release is available here (in Japanese only).

Silkworm research at the G7 Science Ministers Meeting in Tsukuba

Press Release 2016.06.08

The NIAS research on production of fluorescent silk from transgenic silkworm was presented at the exhibition hall of the G7 Science and Technology Ministers' Meeting held in Tsukuba on May 15-17, 2016. The NIAS has developed a system for stable transformation of silkworm to facilitate efficient development and utilization of transgenic silkworms for fundamental research and bio-industries. The exhibit focused on the fluorescent silk products generated from silkworm transformed with glowing red, orange and green proteins from corals and jellyfish. The NIAS researchers involved in silkworm research explained about the exhibit to visiting G7 science ministers.