A strong root system allows crops to absorb water and nutrients from the soil, but scientists have little information about the genes that control root development. Recent research published in New Phytologist reveals that blocking a negative regulator gene of root development leads to enhanced root growth in plants.
The gene, called RRS1 (Robust Root System 1), encodes an R2R3-type MYB family transcription factor that activates the expression of another gene (OsIAA3) that inhibits root growth. Knocking out RRS1 in plants led to longer root length, longer lateral root length, and larger lateral root density. Also, a natural variant of RRS1 that changes the activity of the RSS1 protein had a similarly beneficial effect on roots.
The findings indicate that blocking the normal expression of RSS1 may enhance drought resistance in crops by promoting water absorption.
“RRS1 is a new gene resource for improving root systems and cultivating drought-resistant rice varieties through gene-editing or marker-assisted breeding processes,” said co–corresponding author Zichao Li, Ph.D., of China Agricultural University, the Sanya Institute of China Agricultural University, and the Hainan Academy of Agricultural Sciences.