Guevara, D. R., Bi, Y.-M. and Rothstein, S. J. 2014. Identification of regulatory genes to improve nitrogen use efficiency. Can. J. Plant Sci. 94: 1009-1012. Crop production on soils containing sub-optimal levels of nitrogen (N) severely compromises yield potential. The development of crop varieties displaying high N use efficiency (NUE) is necessary in order to optimize N fertilizer use, and reduce the environmental damage caused by the current excessive application of N in agricultural areas. Genome-wide microarray analysis of rice plants grown under N-limiting environments was performed to identify NUE candidate genes. An early nodulin gene, OsENOD93-1, was strongly up-regulated during plant growth under low N. A constitutive Ubiquitin promoter was used to drive the expression of the OsENOD93-1 gene in transgenic plants to determine the importance of OsENOD93-1 for rice NUE. Transgenic rice plants over-expressing the OsENOD93-1 gene achieved ~23% and 16% more yield and biomass, respectively, compared with wild-type plants when grown under N-limitation conditions. OsENOD93-1-OX transgenic plants accumulated a higher amount of total amino acids in the roots and xylem sap under N stress, suggesting that OsENOD93-1 plays a role in the transportation of amino acids. Taken together, we demonstrate that an effective way to identify NUE gene candidates involves both transcriptional profiling coupled with a transgenic validation approach to improve complex traits such as NUE in important crops.
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