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Reducing phosphorus accumulation in rice grains with an impaired transporter in the node

Nature volume 541, pages 9295 (05 January 2017) | Download Citation

  • An Erratum to this article was published on 01 February 2017


Phosphorus is an important nutrient for crop productivity. More than 60% of the total phosphorus in cereal crops is finally allocated into the grains and is therefore removed at harvest. This removal accounts for 85% of the phosphorus fertilizers applied to the field each year1,2. However, because humans and non-ruminants such as poultry, swine and fish cannot digest phytate, the major form of phosphorus in the grains, the excreted phosphorus causes eutrophication of waterways. A reduction in phosphorus accumulation in the grain would contribute to sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture. Here we describe a rice transporter, SULTR-like phosphorus distribution transporter (SPDT), that controls the allocation of phosphorus to the grain. SPDT is expressed in the xylem region of both enlarged- and diffuse-vascular bundles of the nodes, and encodes a plasma-membrane-localized transporter for phosphorus. Knockout of this gene in rice (Oryza sativa) altered the distribution of phosphorus, with decreased phosphorus in the grains but increased levels in the leaves. Total phosphorus and phytate in the brown de-husked rice were 20–30% lower in the knockout lines, whereas yield, seed germination and seedling vigour were not affected. These results indicate that SPDT functions in the rice node as a switch to allocate phosphorus preferentially to the grains. This finding provides a potential strategy to reduce the removal of phosphorus from the field and lower the risk of eutrophication of waterways.

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This work was supported by Grant-in-Aid for Specially Promoted Research (JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 15H04469 to N.Y. and 16H06296 to J.F.M.).

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Author notes

    • Naoki Yamaji
    • , Yuma Takemoto
    •  & Jian Feng Ma

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. Institute of Plant Science and Resources, Okayama University, Chuo 2-20-1, Kurashiki 710-0046, Japan

    • Naoki Yamaji
    • , Yuma Takemoto
    • , Namiki Mitani-Ueno
    •  & Jian Feng Ma
  2. Advanced Science Research Center, Okayama University, Okayama 700-8530, Japan

    • Takaaki Miyaji
  3. Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8657, Japan

    • Kaoru T. Yoshida


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N.Y. and Y.T. contributed equally to this work. N.Y. and J.F.M. designed research; N.Y. and Y.T. performed most experiments. Transport activity for Pi was determined by T.M. in vitro and by N.M.-U. in oocytes. K.T.Y. determined the phytic acid concentration; N.Y., Y.T. and J.F.M. analysed data; and N.Y. and J.F.M. wrote the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jian Feng Ma.

Reviewer Information Nature thanks C. Vance and M. Wissuwa and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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