CRISPR-Edited Plants Show Better Drought Resistance and Fruit Yield

Jenn Hoskins
4th May, 2024

CRISPR-Edited Plants Show Better Drought Resistance and Fruit Yield

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Scientists in China used gene editing to improve tomato drought resistance and fruit size
  • Modified tomatoes had fewer stomata, reducing water loss and increasing drought tolerance
  • The same genetic change also led to larger tomatoes, offering more yield without sacrificing resilience
In the quest for sustainable agriculture, scientists are constantly seeking ways to enhance crop resilience and yield. A recent breakthrough from researchers at China Agricultural University has shed light on a genetic factor that could revolutionize tomato farming[1]. The study centers on a transcription factor called SlGT30 and its role in drought resistance and fruit development in tomatoes. Transcription factors are proteins that help turn specific genes on or off by binding to nearby DNA. SlGT30 is one such transcription factor that has been found to influence the plant's ability to withstand dry conditions and also to affect the size of its fruits. Using CRISPR/Cas9, a cutting-edge gene-editing technology, the researchers were able to create tomato plants with the SlGT30 gene turned off, known as knockout lines. The knockout lines exhibited a lower density of stomata, the tiny openings on the leaves that allow for gas exchange, including the release of water vapor. This is particularly significant because stomata play a crucial role in a plant's water management and are a focal point in understanding plant-climate interactions[2]. By reducing the number of stomata, the edited plants showed a decrease in water loss, which in turn improved their drought resistance. This finding is in line with previous research that engineered rice plants with fewer stomata, resulting in a crop that could survive drought and high temperatures better than conventional varieties[3]. Moreover, the study revealed that editing the SlGT30 gene impacted cell ploidy levels in both the leaves and fruits of the tomato plants. Ploidy refers to the number of sets of chromosomes in a cell, and changes in ploidy can affect cell size and function. It's been observed that an increase in ploidy through a process called endoreduplication can set the stage for future cellular growth[4]. In the SlGT30 knockout lines, the researchers noticed alterations in the endoreduplication pathway, which manifested in the observed decrease in stomata density and a reduction in water loss. The impact of SlGT30 on tomatoes didn't stop at drought resistance. The gene editing also resulted in larger fruits. The knockout lines showed an increase in both cell size and cell number in the fruit pericarp, the part of the fruit that surrounds the seeds, leading to an increase in fruit size and weight. This dual benefit of enhanced drought tolerance and larger fruit size is a significant finding because it defies the usual trade-off between yield and resistance often seen in agricultural genetics. The implications of this research are far-reaching. With the global population growing and climate change posing increasing challenges to food security, developing crops that use water more efficiently and yield more food is a priority. The SlGT30 gene represents a promising target for future gene-editing efforts to produce tomatoes that can thrive in drier conditions while also providing larger fruits. This study illustrates the potential of gene editing in agriculture and opens the door to similar strategies in other crops. By pinpointing genes that can improve multiple agronomic traits simultaneously, scientists can create plants that are better suited to the changing climate and help secure our food supply for the future. The work of the China Agricultural University team is a step forward in this direction, providing a valuable genetic resource that can be leveraged in breeding practices to meet the agricultural demands of tomorrow.



Main Study

1) CRISPR/Cas9 edited SlGT30 improved both drought resistance and fruit yield through endoreduplication.

Published 2nd May, 2024

Related Studies

2) Stomata: key players in the earth system, past and present.

Journal: Current opinion in plant biology, Issue: Vol 13, Issue 3, Jun 2010

3) Rice with reduced stomatal density conserves water and has improved drought tolerance under future climate conditions.

4) Developmental control of endocycles and cell growth in plants.

Related Articles

An unhandled error has occurred. Reload 🗙