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NO.405 06.19.2018

Resolving Future Food Shortage by Researching Rice

Ecological environmental problems, such as climate change, water shortage & contamination, loss of soil, and the blight of new pests, are proliferating across the globe.

The combination of multiple crises can lead to grave food shortage. Professor Jong-Seong Jeon of Kyung Hee Graduate School of Biotechnology has recently announced promising research findings, as they may contribute to resolving the future food crisis. Professor Jeon, in partnership with Professor Gynheung An (Crop Biotech Institute), used the ‘OsDoF11’ gene found in rice to discover the world’s first sugar transport modulating gene.

The findings were published on April 12th, in the online version of the top-ranking plant journal, Molecular Plant. By means of efficient photosynthesis and carbon metabolism (burning of carbon into energy through organic activity, i.e., breathing) even in high-temperature, this study examined plants that can enhance productivity.

“The world’s top-ranking study on rice crop underway”

Since joining Kyung Hee in 2002, Professor Jeon has published 141 papers in SCI-rated journals. He was the first to find that the fibrillin 5 gene assists photosynthesis under adverse environmental conditions, such as in high heat and water shortage. His paper was published in August 2017, in a prestigious plant journal, Frontiers in Plant Science.

The Fibrillin 5 gene influences the chlorophyll function; when this gene loses function, rice cannot survive in high heat. By producing excess amounts of fibrillin 5, Professor Jeon is focusing on strengthening the growth and productivity of rice.

Professor Jeon shared his motivation behind the research, saying “When the chlorophyll function improves, rice is bound to grow better and to produce more. But research is still lacking in the function of proteins that exist in the chlorophyll. That is why I began this research.”

At the plant genome lab that Professor Jeon supervises, a wide variety of studies focused on rice, such as plant genome structure, modulation and function analysis, are actively underway. Professor Jeon also stressed the significance of the Crop Biotech Institute (CBI). “The Kyung Hee CBI has created approximately 10,000 mutant rice strains. As the world’s largest facility, the Center is responsible for quality rice research. We receive requests for rice mutants from around the world.”

 

Seeking to enhance rice productivity by studying photosynthesis and carbon metabolism”

By researching photosynthesis and carbon metabolism, Professor Jeon intends to develop rice that can adapt to the changing global environment. Plants photosynthesize to create glucose that is crucial to growth and reproduction. When humans take in too much food, the satiety causes us to want to rest. Likewise, when plants take in large volumes of photosynthesis in a short period of time, the glucose remains on the leaves, causing poor metabolism of carbon.

Professor Jeon explained, “When there is plenty of sunlight, rice stops photosynthesis at around 2 p.m. To get past this failure, the paper published in April uses the ‘OsDoF11’ gene to expedite the sugar transport, causing the plant to continuously photosynthesize.” By expanding on this study, Professor Jeon intends to redefine the theory of carbon metabolism, and to establish a system that enhances the productivity and function of rice.

Professor Jeon’s eventual goal is to commercialize the new findings. He said, “By learning the true functions inherent in the genes, they offer various ways to achieve industrialization. I continue to find areas that I want to study further. To address the food shortage crisis, resulting from population increase and ecological environmental degradation, I intend to continue my research into photosynthesis and carbon metabolism.”

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