Abstract

MJ 1-2 - From Arabidopsis to canola: Solving the pod shattering problem

Saturday, July 14
1:35 PM - 2:05 PM

For most crops, farmers have informally selected for plants that fail to disperse their seeds in order to maximize seed yield at harvest. For example, wild varieties of rice actively disperse their seeds at maturity by a process called shattering, whereas most cultivated rice varieties are non-shattering. However, for some crop species, shattering continues to represent a huge obstacle for optimal harvest by farmers. One example is canola, an important Brassica oilseed crop, where pod shattering can severely impact seed yield, particularly under adverse weather conditions. In an effort to solve this problem, we used the reference plant Arabidopsis thaliana to identify the major regulatory genes that control seedpod opening. Arabidopsis fruit, like those of canola, develop a highly specialized region called the valve margin to ensure normal fruit opening at maturity. These valve margin cells separate at maturity, allowing for the fruit to open and for seed dispersal. Using Arabidopsis, we identified a number of genes that are required for valve margin differentiation. Among these genes is INDEHISCENT (IND), which encodes a putative bHLH transcription factor. IND is specifically expressed in cells that will form the valve margin, and mutations in IND reduce or eliminate valve margin formation, resulting in fruit that fail to open normally. These studies suggested that a reduction of IND activity could reduce the pod shattering issue associated with canola fruit. After many years of painstaking research, scientists at Bayer CropScience were indeed successful at identifying an allele of IND that results in shatter resistant canola pods. I will discuss the long and winding road that began with the basic science of fruit development in Arabidopsis and ended with the application of this technology to positively impact the way canola farmers harvest their precious crop. 


 

Martin Yanofsky

Distinguished Professor
UCSD

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