Research in Focus・Press Release

Discovery of the pre-harvest sprouting tolerance gene in wheat and barley

The gene involved in pre-harvest sprouting, a condition where germination of grains occurs in the spike before harvest, has been separately identified in wheat and barley. Moreover, it has been found to be same gene in in these two cereal crops. This discovery will contribute to the improvement of pre-harvest sprouting tolerance in both wheat and barley, that will be particularly useful in the breeding of tolerant cultivars.

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Discovery of the gene that promotes nutrient uptake and accumulation in rice

The gene that promotes the absorption of various nutrients from the hydroponic nutrient solution and subsequent accumulation in the plant has been successfully identified in rice. Overexpression of the gene (RDD1) in rice grown with low fertilizer input increased the yield by approximately 20%. The gene can be used in developing new cultivars as well as efficient cultivation techniques that will result in sustaining high yield even with lower input of fertilizers.

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Discovery of a key protein involved in the defense system of rice

The protein Diterpenoid Phytoalexin Factor (DPF), which specifically controls the synthesis of antimicrobial substances in plants and functions as a defense system against several pathogens has been discovered in rice. The characterization of this protein is expected to facilitate the production of phytoalexins even before the onset of biotic and abiotic stresses, and could lead to the development of rice cultivars with strong resistance to pathogens.

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Induction of a high frequency mutation in soybean generates useful genetic variations

Many useful variations in soybean have been generated using a highly efficient technology that involves induction of mutation combined with a cost-effective and high-throughput sequencing strategy to select the resulting variations in the genes. The mutant soybean population contains many genetic variations particularly in the genes associated with highly desirable agronomic traits such as early-maturing that could be used in breeding for new and improved soybean cultivars.

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Elucidating the mechanism involved in the production of silk proteins

The mechanism involved in the high amount of production of water-soluble sericin silk protein in a specific region of the silk gland of silkworm has been elucidated. Analysis of gene expression that regulates sericin production indicated the possibility that this system can also be functional in the posterior silk gland that primarily produces the water insoluble fibroin silk protein. This study may be useful in developing strategies to increase the production of useful proteins in silkworm.  Read more.

Discovery of 'Ouija board' protein summoning 'spookier' gene

A new protein that appears to have an important role in controlling the expression of an enzyme gene 'spookier' in the biosynthesis of ecdysteroid or insect molting hormone, was found from a study using yellow fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. This is the first report describing a transcription factor that is specialized for the regulation of only one ecdysteroidogenic gene in invertebrates. It is highly anticipated that this study will provide novel insights into the regulatory mechanism of steroid hormone biosynthesis and its evolution in animals and that can be used in developing agricultural chemicals that target only insect pests.  Read more.

Elucidating the inhibition mechanism of insect metamorphosis by juvenile hormone

The mechanism in the suppression of metamorphosis in insects involving a juvenile hormone was elucidated for the first time in the world. By directly restraining the expression of the specific gene (BR-C) that controls insect development from the larval to the pupal stage, the protein (Kr-h1) stimulated by the juvenile hormone could directly inhibit the metamorphosis. It is therefore possible to control the activity of this protein and develop agricultural chemicals that target only insect pests.

Azuki bean genome is completely sequenced

The genome sequence of azuki bean has been completely deciphered covering 95% of the entire genome, and approximately 30,000 genes have been identified. This will facilitate the characterization of many agronomically important genes such as cold resistance and traits associated with mechanical harvesting, and accelerate the improvement of azuki bean by genomics-assisted breeding. Furthermore, efficient utilization of genome information that could lead to the development of novel azuki bean cultivars with highly desirable traits.

Elucidating the mechanism of resistance to rice blast under low temperature

The blast disease, which causes serious damage to rice crops, is induced by a filamentous fungus and the damage is further aggravated particularly under cold summer conditions. The mechanism involving induction of an enzyme that in turn impairs resistance to rice blast when the temperature drops has been elucidated. By controlling the action of the gene that codes for this enzyme, resistance to rice blast can be enhanced even under cold stress conditions thereby paving the way for developing highly resistant rice cultivars.

Elucidating the origin and spread of ancient rice

The causative gene of the black color of grains in black rice (also referred to as purple rice) and known in ancient times as “Emperor’s” rice has been identified. An extensive analysis of the genes associated with grain color in about 50 rice cultivars traces the origin of the black trait and how the causative gene spread into modern rice cultivars. These results will also facilitate the breeding and incorporation of the black rice trait into white rice cultivars.

Elucidating the origin of cultivated barley as evidence of earliest human agriculture

The origin of the agronomic trait in barley that retains the grains on the inflorescence at maturity which led to effective harvesting, and therefore plays major role in barley domestication has been elucidated. The barley cultivars widely grown in Europe and the western hemisphere originated from mutations of ancestral lines which occurred approximately 10,000 years ago in southern region of Levant in Israel, whereas the barley cultivars which spread in Japan and the eastern hemisphere originated from later mutations which occurred in northern Levant from northwest Syria to southeast Turkey. This is the first report that identifies the exact location of the origin of barley domestication and provides a direct evidence of the earliest human agriculture. The ancestors of cultivated barley which originated from the northern and southern Levant differ from each other in many agronomic traits. Crossbreeding of cultivars from each ancestral group will facilitate the incorporation of specific novel traits, and accelerate an efficient cultivar improvement in wheat and barley.

Generation of "juvenile hormone" free silkworms by genome editing

Juvenile hormones essential for insect growth are synthesized in an endocrine organ, transported to other tissues, and bind to an intracellular receptor to control the genes involved in molting and metamorphosis. Using the genome editing technology, we were able to knock-out the genes essential for the synthesis and reception of juvenile hormones in the silworm. The resultant "juvenile hormone"-free silkworms metamorphosed early into pupae and eventually died without developing into adults, suggesting that the juvenile hormone biosynthetic enzyme and the receptor are promising targets for designing biorational insecticides. Thus, our results lead to the development of new pesticides that can prevent the damage due to excessive feeding of insect larvae in crops.

Development of rice capable of accumulating high levels of cadmium for bioremediation of contaminated rice fields

A rice cultivar "Phyreme CD1" capable of accumulating high levels of cadmium and suitable for the purification of contaminated paddy fields has been developed and registered as a new variety. This new cultivar was developed by conferring the non-shattering and lodging tolerant characteristic in indica rice cultivar capable of absorbing cadmium at high levels from the soil. It can be easily distinguished from Japanese rice cultivars and can be efficiently used as a bioremediation plant to remove cadmium from polluted paddy fields.

Development of easy-to-use and beautiful healing bandage-type artificial skin

A joint research initiative of Saga University and the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, in collaboration with Yutoku Pharmaceutical Ind. Co. Ltd. and Kanto Chemical Co., Inc. has led to the successful development of an easy-to-use bandage-type artificial skin that also allows the wound to heal without leaving ugly scars. This artificial skin is made of biocompatible collagen material known as collagen vitrigel membrane, originally developed by the research group of Dr. Toshiaki Takezawa of the Animal Immune and Cell Biology Research Unit. This innovative product could serve as a very promising material for emergency treatment of skin injuries such as burns and is expected to have a wide of range of medical applications in the future. Read more.

Unified information to intensify the utilization of rice DNA markers in breeding

The Applied Crop Genomics Research Center, a virtual research organization jointly coordinated by the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences (NIAS) and the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) has opened a website that integrates information on rice DNA markers to further promote and intensify the application of marker-assisted selection in developing improved cultivars of rice. The website provides information on about 100 DNA markers that have been developed so far and used in various breeding strategies for target phenotypic and other agronomic traits of rice. Marker-assisted selection may greatly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of breeding for improved cultivars of rice. In the future, similar DNA marker information will be provided for other crops such as soybean and wheat. The DNA marker website is available at:

Conferring strong multiple disease resistance in rice without using pesticides

The Applied Crop Genomics Research Center, a virtual research organization jointly coordinated by the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences (NIAS) and the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) released a new set of DNA markers from soybean, wheat, fruit trees, vegetables, industrial crops, forage crop and ornamental plants in a unified webpage format. This will further promote and intensify the application of marker-assisted selection in developing improved cultivars of a wide range of crops. The DNA marker information is available at:

Precise gene modification in rice without leaving unnecessary sequences

A genetic modification technology that allows efficient introduction of point mutations into a target gene without leaving any unnecessary sequences via gene targeting and subsequent precise marker excision has been successfully established in rice. This approach of genome editing has been made it possible with the utilization of an insect-derived piggyBac transposon, known as mobile DNA. Although it has been widely used in animals, NIAS is the first-ever to report the successful utilization of this system in plants. The potential of this approach will be applied as well in wheat, barley, tomato and other plants for more accurate and effective molecular breeding. Read more.

Soybean gene controlling pod dehiscence

The soybean pod dehiscence resistant gene, pdh1 which controls shattering of seeds from the pod during harvest time has been successfully elucidated. The gene prevents the pod from splitting open by suppressing the torsion of the pod thereby preventing seed shattering. Although pdh1 gene has been identified in many soybean cultivars which originated and grown in foreign countries, the gene was found to be absent in almost all locally grown Japanese cultivars. Introducing the gene could lead to the development of cultivars adaptable to mechanical harvesting in Japan. Read more.

A novel transmission route of symbiotic bacteria of a leafhopper to the offspring

A joint collaboration of NIAS and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) led to the discovery of the transmission of facultative Rickettsia symbiont of the green rice leafhopper, a rice pest in East Asia, to the offspring. In general, majority of the intracellular symbionts are present in the host cell cytoplasm and maternally transmitted through host generations. The Rickettsia symbiont is also vertically transmitted to leafhopper offspring through maternal line. However, this study has clarified intrasperm vertical transmission of nuclear-targeting bacterial symbiont. The Rickettsia symbiont was found not only in the cytoplasm but also in the nucleus of host cells. When the female leafhopper without the symbiont was crossed with a male leafhopper with the symbiont, 60% of the offsprings were infected with the symbiotic Rickettsia. This indicates that in addition to maternal transmission via ovarial passage the symbiont could be efficiently transmitted paternally via intrasperm passage. Read more.

Development of a simple and highly efficient genetic integration method via genome editing

An easy and highly efficient method that enables integration of exogenous DNA into targeted chromosomal region has been developed using artificially engineered nucleases that act as molecular scissors by cutting target positions in the genome, and harnessing the endogenous mechanisms to repair the induced break by natural processes. This genome editing strategy has been applied in cultured cells and in various animals including silkworm and frog. In cultured human cells and frog, the target protein can be easily visualized by fluorescence microscopy. In silkworm, a fluorescence protein gene was successfully inserted in the target position on the chromosome. Read more.

Broad-spectrum resistance to brown planthopper in rice

A resistant gene against brown planthopper (BPH) was identified and cloned for the first time in cultivated rice. Characterization of the BPH26 gene revealed that the resistance of the rice plant against BPH is induced by inhibition of phloem feeding, thereby starving the insects to death eventually. Since BPH is one of the most serious insect pests causing extensive damage in rice production, incorporation of BPH26 and another related gene in breeding programs is highly anticipated to develop cultivars with durable resistance against BPH. Read more.

Genome-wide association study of metabolites in 175 rice cultivars

A joint research collaboration of NIAS and RIKEN on the complete set of metabolites, or the so-called metabolome of 175 rice cultivars successfully identified 342 kinds of structurally diverse primary and secondary metabolites  and clarified anew the genetic structure of 91 metabolites. The large difference in metabolite composition was observed among 175 cultivars. As an example, a flavonoid compound in cultivar ‘Hatsunishiki’ was not at all identified in cultivar ‘Koshihikari’. The genome-wide association study successfully identified 323 associations among 143 SNPs and 89 metabolites and then clarified the genomic regions associated with the synthesis of metabolites. This study indicates that even without resorting to transgenic technology, comprehensive analysis of the diversity of metabolites in plants could be useful for the development of cultivars containing health promoting compounds. Read more.

Discovery of a new indispensable gene for regulation of cellular cholesterol behavior

A joint research collaboration of NIAS with University of Tsukuba and The University of Tokyo led to the discovery of a new Halloween gene that regulates cellular cholesterol behavior in the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster). The gene predominantly expressed in the prothoracic gland is called noppera-bo and encodes the glutathione S-transferase, an enzyme which is essential for ecdysteroid biosynthesis and triggers developmental transitions in insects. The steroidal hormone plays an important role in maintenance of growth and homeostasis as well as the sexual maturity in multicellular organisms. Although cholesterol serves as the precursor in biosynthesis of steroid hormones, it is not clear how it is transported and how it is regulated. The noppera-bo knock-down mutant showed a typical embryonic ecdysteroid deficiency and arrested development of the larva. However upon administration of cholesterol, both mutant embryos and larvae recovered and developed into normal phenotypes. These results clearly indicate that noppera-bo plays a crucial role in regulating the behaviour of cholesterol in steroid biosynthesis in insects and possibly in other higher organisms as well including human, and may be used in developing new pesticide for controlling the growth of target insects. Read more.

A transcription factor regulates the number of root nodules

The leguminous plants including important crops such as soybean and common beans control the number of root nodules via a long distance signaling regulatory system through the leaves. The research groups of Dr. Takashi Soyano and Prof. Masayoshi Kawaguchi of the National Institute for Basic Biology (NIBB) and Dr. Makoto Hayashi of NIAS have jointly clarified that a transcription factor called ‘Nodule Inception’ or NIN is involved in the initiation and control of root nodule formation as a mechanism of keeping a balance in the number of root nodules. Although the root nodule symbiosis is beneficial to host plants, excessive nodulation interferes with plant growth because the process involves a lot of energy. By controlling the number of root nodules, the plant can avoid the use of excessive energy, which is extremely important for growth. The results of this study are available online in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences USA from September 22, 2014. Read more.

New material for corneal regeneration derived from pig collagen

A transparent and biocompatible new material for regenerative medicine has been successfully developed using pig collagen. This porcine-derived atelocollagen vitrigel membrane with spherical curvature was used as scaffold for culturing human cells which led to regeneration of corneal tissues. The results of this study will soon be used by the University of Tokyo Hospital and integrated in developing an efficient strategy for corneal endothelial regenerative treatment and innovative technologies for healthcare. Read more.

Decoding the genome of extreme desiccation-tolerant sleeping chironomid

The genome sequence of the sleeping chironomid, an insect which inhabits the rocky areas of the semiarid region of central Africa and an immense capacity to survive under extreme conditions such as drought, has been successfully decoded by a joint international research team from Japan, Russia and the USA, paving the way for elucidating the mechanism of anhydrobiosis that allows the insect to enter a state of suspended animation and totally dry-up without dying. The genome sequence provides new insights which may ultimately lead to identification of the genes that control tolerance to extreme dessication and utilization of the strategies of anhydrobiosis in preservation of desiccation-sensitive systems such as iPS cells, embryo, blood tissues etc. under normal conditions. Read more.

Discovery of a rice almighty gene with multiple functions

A joint collaboration of the research teams of Prof. Masamichi Nishiguchi of Ehime University and Dr. Hiroaki Ichikawa of the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences has successfully elucidated that the overexpression of the rice heme activator protein gene (OsHAP2E) induced multiple functions such as resistance to pathogens, tolerance to salinity and drought, increased photosynthetic activity, and increased tiller number. This is the first report that a single gene in rice has been found to be involved in various functions associated with plant growth, development, and abiotic and biotic stress responses. The gene does not only confer resistance to pathogenic bacteria, but also enables the cultivation of the crops under conditions of salinity and drought. Moreover, the gene induces an increase in photosynthetic activity and an increase in tiller number that may potentially lead to a corresponding increase of crop yield. It is expected that this gene will contribute in developing strategies that can be used in overcoming possible food shortage due to an ever-increasing world population. Read more.

Silk produced by transgenic silkworm expressing spider dragline silk protein

A transgenic silkworm which produces new silk material combining the tensile strength and elasticity of spider dragline silk and the high quality characteristic of silk derived from silkworm has been successfully generated. This new spider-type silk is 1.5 times tougher as compared to normal silk. A processing method similar to normal silk has also been successfully applied in production of textile using spider-type silk. It is expected that further development of a much stronger and high quality spider-type silk will pave the way for medical applications in the production of surgical sutures, and survival supplies such as safety rope and protective clothing that can be used during natural disasters and emergency situations. Read more.

Identification of a novel promoter that can induce strong and ubiquitous gene expression in transgenic silkworm

A novel promoter that can induce gene expression strongly and ubiquitously in transgenic silkworm eggs has been successfully identified. So far, screening of transgenic silkworm eggs required sufficient skills due to the weak activity of the promoter. Using this new promoter, selection can now be performed easily and accurately, thereby contributing to the development of an efficient screening system and further advances in transgenic silkworm research. Read more.

Elucidating the mechanism of recognition and evasion in viral infection of tomato

The structural basis in which the virus resistance protein found in wild tomato binds with the tomato mosaic virus protein to inhibit its propagation has been clarified. The virus resistance protein of tomato and the tomato mosaic virus protein each undergoes repetitive changes resulting in the host recognition of the viral molecule, viral adaptive evasion of the recognition, host counteradaptation, and viral response to counteradaptation. Such information on the structural basis of recognition and evasion could be used in developing an efficient plant anti-viral agent that can be expected to control the spread of viral diseases and an increase in the yield of affected crops. Read more.

Successful production of silk fibers with unnatural amino acids

Silk fibers containing unnatural amino acids were successfully produced for the first time by simply feeding transgenic silkworms with a diet supplemented with the amino acids. The fluorescent molecules were successfully bound to the silk fibers of transgenic silkworm by using the introduced unnatural amino acids as selective reaction sites. This result suggests a potential binding ability that could be used with various molecules as well. It is expected that incorporating biologically active substances such as bone morphogenetic protein etc. could pave the way for the development of silk materials with wide applications in regenerative medicine. Read more.

Genetic blueprint of the wheat genome revealed

The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC), which includes the NIAS, has successfully decoded the draft sequence of the wheat genome and characterized approximately 120,000 genes that comprise the genome. The draft genome sequence of wheat which is 40 times the size of the rice genome will provide new insights into identifying the function of wheat genes, cloning of genes for agronomically important traits, and the development of DNA markers to accelerate the breeding of cultivars with improved traits in terms of yield, grain quality and resistance to biotic/abiotic stresses. Read more.

World’s first production of piglets from cryopreserved oocytes

Live piglets were successfully produced for the first time from immature oocytes vitrified and cryopreserved at sub-zero temperatures. By adjusting the optimum warming temperature of cryopreserved oocytes and subjecting the process of in vitro embryo production, the percentage of survival increased to 20% and the success rate of embryo development into the blastocyst stage increased by 1.6 fold. This defined system for in vitro embryo production will facilitate a more efficient and stable preservation of pig genetic resources. Read more.

Discovery of synergistic insecticidal effect of calcium oxalate crystals and protease

The needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals called raphides commonly found in tissues of many plants such as kiwifruits etc. has been shown to exhibit extremely strong synergistic defensive properties against harmful herbivorous insects in the presence of cysteine protease. The synergistic defensive effect of raphides with other defensive factors could be used in developing cultivars with strong defensive properties among crops such as taro and grapes with low expression of cysteine protease, and is expected to pave the way for further development of safer and more effective insecticide technology. Read more.

Development of a database to maximize the utilization of large-scale data on agrigenomics

A database infrastructure has been developed that will allow easy access to large-scale genome data derived from agriculturally important organisms and lead to more efficient utilization of such information in agricultural productivity. The Agrigenomics Information Database (AgrID, was designed to facilitate users to perform analysis of genomic data by computers equipped with large-scale data processing capacity. This will therefore serve as a valuable resource for advancement of research in genomics and play an important role in more efficient utilization of genomics data for crop improvement particularly in accelerating the breeding of new varieties.

Towards improving artificial insemination efficiency in cattle

A joint study of Okayama University and NIAS led to the discovery for the first time of the mechanism involved in the growth and proliferation of luteal cells which control hormone secretion during pregnancy in cattle. During artificial insemination of cattle, the time of ovulation can be controlled by the dosage of the hormone, but it is necessary to wait until the luteal cells grow resulting in low efficiency. Understanding the relationship between luteal growth and cell proliferation could contribute to the improvement of the efficiency of artificial insemination in cattle in the future. Read more.

Identification of a new type semiochemical carrier protein that mediates chemical communication in ants

A new protein that plays crucial role in chemical communication and exchange of information among worker ants has been successfully identified. As this protein specifically functions on ants, this discovery is expected to provide a potential target for the development of safe and environmentally friendly agricultural pesticides against harmful and invasive ants. Read more.

Sex pheromone successfully controls sugarcane insect pest

The mating behavior of white grub beetle (Dasylepida ishigakiensis), a major insect pest of sugar cane, has been successfully disrupted with the application of synthetic sex pheromone in the field. The sex pheromone released in the field using polyethylene-tube dispensers reduced the larval density of next generation thereby providing an effective and environment friendly method of preventing extensive damage in infestation caused by the insect pest. Read more.

Discovery of a leech that can survive extremely low temperature

A joint research of NIAS and Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology led to the discovery of a leech capable of surviving exposure to extremely low temperature. The leech can survive even after exposure to liquid nitrogen (-196oC) for 24 hours and frozen at -90oC for up to 32 months. In addition, the leech is capable of enduring more than 10 times of repeated freeze-thawing cycle ranging from 20 to -100°C. Read more.

Development of the technology to evaluate the function of a specific domain of intracellular protein

Intracellular enzymatic proteins and regulatory proteins in gene expression consist of two or more domain with specific structure that exhibits their specific functions. Although the functions of intracellular proteins were analyzed by the loss of the gene expression, so called "gene-knockout", each domain function of proteins has not been fully investigated. In the present study, it has been demonstrated that intracellularly expressed antibodies (intrabodies) composed of only the variable regions (VH or VL) of antibodies retain their specific binding activity to the target protein and efficiently inhibit the domain function of intracellular protein. These results suggest that intrabody technology provides a novel approach to decipher the molecular mechanisms of protein function in the cell. Read more.

Deciphering the sequence of more than 10,000 silkworm genes

A large scale analysis of the silkworm full-length cDNA sequences reveals the function of approximately 11,000 genes that comprise the silkworm genome. The results derived from this study are expected to make significant contribution in various industries such as the development of new control agents against insect pests and the production of useful materials using transgenic silkworm. Read more.

Identification of the gene which contributes to increased photosynthetic efficiency of high-yielding rice

The gene (GPS) associated with the efficiency or rate of photosynthesis commonly found in high-yielding rice cultivars has been identified. GPS is a natural variant of the gene involving leaf growth, increasing the number of mesophyll cells thereby improving the photosynthetic efficiency of the plant. It is expected that wide utilization of this gene in breeding programs will lead to the development of more high-yielding rice cultivars. Read more.

Piglets generated for the first time using sperm retrieved from immature testicular tissue cryopreserved and grafted into nude mice

Testicular tissue obtained from piglets could maintain the ability to produce sperm after they were cryopreserved and grafted into nude mice. We successfully for the first time generated viable piglets after transfer of porcine oocytes injected with a porcine sperm recovered from a nude mouse. The present model that involves xenografting of immature testicular tissue combined with cryopreservation is expected to allow conservation of genetic resources for animals. Read more.

Development of a safe testing method using a culture model reflecting the architecture of human corneal epithelium

A culture model equivalent to corneal epithelium has been constructed by culturing human corneal epithelial cells in a novel collagen vitrigel・membrane chamber. With this model, a new eye irritancy test method that is excellent for briefly and accurately estimating the wide-spread irritancy of test chemicals was subsequently developed. It is expected that even without direct testing on animals, this new vitrigel・based eye irritancy test method will facilitate accurate estimation of irritation following chemical exposure, which is required for the development not only of cosmetics but also other consumer products and drugs so on. Read more.

Discovery and isolation of the gene that controls deep rooting in rice

The gene which controls deep rooting in rice was successfully isolated by map-based cloning. When the gene (DRO1) was introduced in shallow rooting rice cultivar, the root system developed extensively penetrating deeply into the soil thereby allowing the plants to absorb more water. It is expected that utilization of this gene in breeding of various crops will lead to the development of cultivars with strong resistance against drought stress. Read more.

Elucidating the mechanism of pathogen-induced resistance in rice

Rice blast is one of the major causes of significant losses in crop yield every year. The role of Panicle blast 1 (Pb1) gene in conferring resistance against rice blast and the mechanism of action has been elucidated. The Pb1 protein interacts with WRKY45, a transcription factor involved in pathogen resistance, and protects it from degradation thereby enhancing its defense activity. Strengthening the function of Pb1 gene in rice is expected to induce durable resistance that will greatly reduce the use of agricultural chemicals with the associated negative impact on the environment. Read more.

Discovery of a gene associated with length and weight of rice grain

A novel gene associated with grain length and weight, the major determining factors of yield, has been successfully identified and characterized in rice. The gene (TGW6) has been identified in very limited genotypes but nonetheless, enhances the most important traits that could lead to significant increase in yield. Utilization of the gene in breeding programs promises yield improvement of a wide range of modern rice cultivars derived from different genetic backgrounds. Read more.

Transcriptional activators in legumes that enable nitrogen use in the atmosphere

The function of a nodulation-specific protein NIN that allows leguminous plants to utilize nitrogen in the atmosphere was clarified. NIN was found to act as transcriptional activator that directly targets two nuclear factor subunit genes and is a crucial factor responsible for initiating nodulation-specific symbiotic processes. Controlling the expression of the gene in soybean and other crops could therefore facilitate cultivation under relatively poor nutrient conditions and could lead to an agricultural system with low adverse impact on the environment. Read more.

Elucidating the genetic linkage map of brown planthopper

The genetic linkage map of brown planthopper, a major insect pest of rice, has been elucidated. As the first genetic map for an insect pest that can cause extensive damage during rice cultivation, the results described in this study will provide the basis for understanding the genes related to the virulence of brown planthopper and other related species, and accelerate the identification of resistance genes against insect pests among rice cultivars. Furthermore, this study may also lead to the development of insecticides for effective control of various insect pests, and the breeding of rice cultivars with durable resistance to brown planthopper and other insect pests. Read more.

New types of crops with resistance to multiple pathogens

A collaborative research on transformation strategy that involves two disease resistance-genes has successfully induced resistance of crops against multiple pathogenic organisms. The genes derived from Arabidopsis have been successfully introduced in plants from various family classifications such as tomato, tobacco, komatsuna, rapeseed, and cucumber to induce resistance against pathogens that caused bacterial wilt, bacterial speck and anthracnose fungal disease. This is the first report of its kind and is expected to contribute in providing an effective and environmentally safer method of disease control in a wide variety of crops. Read more.

Establishment of a method to suppress the composition of the black pigment in insects

Black melanin pigment is widespread on the body surface of insects. Osanai-Futahashi and colleagues succeeded in suppressing black melanin formation in silkworm, fruit fly and ladybug, using the silkworm gene encoding arylalkylamine-N-acetyl transferase. The overexpression of this gene causes dominant and distinct effect which is easily distinguished by the naked eye, and can be utilized as a marker for genetic modified insects in both larval and adult stages. Application of this novel marker should facilitate the use of transgenic techniques, and promote molecular studies and production of biomaterials in insects. Read more.

Predicting the expression of rice genes based on atmospheric data

A system which could estimate the transcriptional response of rice grown in the field has been developed. The atmospheric data such as climate and temperature in the field, and developmental stage of the rice plant were used as variables in creating a model that could accurately associate the changes in the expression of the genes with various environmental conditions. This modeling system could therefore be used to predict the expression of genes such as those related to high temperature based on previously obtained atmospheric data. Read more.

Decoding the pig genome and the sequence of important genes

The international consortium for analysis of the pig genome which included the NIAS has succesfylly decoded the sequence of the pig genome. The NIAS also contributed to this effort by sequencing approximately 15,000 full-length cDNAs corresponding to expressed pig genes. It is expected that the results of this extensive pig genome analysis will promote the selective breeding of pig for production of high-quality pork, feeding efficiency and resistance to diseases as well as the utilization of pig in medical research. Read more.