Using transgenic rice to examine gene function

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Publication details

Gillies, SA & Henry, RJ 2008, ‘Using transgenic rice to examine gene function’, paper presented to 1st Australian Wild Rice Symposium: Australia, a major centre of diversity for rice, Lismore, NSW, 17 July.


Much agricultural research leads at some point to the identification of “gene/s of interest”, thought to confer a particular phenotype or trait to a plant, whether positive or negative. However it is often difficult and time-consuming to accurately asses the true contribution of any single gene or small gene cluster to the trait of interest by traditional methods. Isolating specific genes and introducing them into rice, the model plant for all cereals, can demonstrate in vivo the contribution of those gene/s to phenotype, and indicate the advisability of using traditional breeding to select for those genes. Transgenes may also be used to force particular tissues such as seed, to produce commercial quantities of valuable proteins such as edible pharmaceuticals. This technology, when combined with the growth of cereal crops naturally suited to the Australian environment may become a further source of economic viability for the growth of these crops into the future.

At the Centre for Conservation Genetics we have recently established a technologically advanced system for the introduction of genes into Oryza sativa varieties. This technique uses a naturally occurring plant pathogen to inject selected genetic material into undifferentiated rice tissue, which then recovers to form a fully functional plant expressing the gene of interest. This is a rapid method for generating high numbers of transgenic plants, and as rice has a relatively simple genome which has been completely sequenced it is ideally suited to examine the consequences of expression of a small number of genes and/ or there regulatory elements.