Abstract

The drive toward more sustainable agriculture has raised the profile of crop plant nutrient-use efficiency. Here we show that a major rice nitrogen-use efficiency quantitative trait locus (qNGR9) is synonymous with the previously identified gene DEP1 (DENSE AND ERECT PANICLES 1). The different DEP1 alleles confer different nitrogen responses, and genetic diversity analysis suggests that DEP1 has been subjected to artificial selection during Oryza sativa spp. japonica rice domestication. The plants carrying the dominant dep1-1 allele exhibit nitrogen-insensitive vegetative growth coupled with increased nitrogen uptake and assimilation, resulting in improved harvest index and grain yield at moderate levels of nitrogen fertilization. The DEP1 protein interacts in vivo with both the Gα (RGA1) and Gβ (RGB1) subunits, and reduced RGA1 or enhanced RGB1 activity inhibits nitrogen responses. We conclude that the plant G protein complex regulates nitrogen signaling and modulation of heterotrimeric G protein activity provides a strategy for environmentally sustainable increases in rice grain yield.

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Acknowledgements

We thank N.P. Harberd for the critical comments on the manuscript and P. Schulze-Lefert, H. Liao and Y. Tong for advice. This research was supported by grants from the 973 Program from National Basic Research Program of China (2011CB915403, 2011CB100302 and 2012AA10A301) and the National Natural Science Foundation (31130070 and 91335207) to X.F.

Author information

Author notes

    • Hongying Sun
    • , Qian Qian
    • , Kun Wu
    • , Jijing Luo
    •  & Shuansuo Wang

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

  1. The State Key Laboratory of Plant Cell and Chromosome Engineering, Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, National Centre for Plant Gene Research, Beijing, China.

    • Hongying Sun
    • , Kun Wu
    • , Shuansuo Wang
    • , Chengwei Zhang
    • , Yanfei Ma
    • , Qian Liu
    • , Xianzhong Huang
    • , Qingbo Yuan
    • , Ruixi Han
    • , Meng Zhao
    •  & Xiangdong Fu
  2. The State Key Laboratory of Rice Biology, China National Rice Research Institute, Hangzhou, China.

    • Qian Qian
    • , Guojun Dong
    • , Longbiao Guo
    •  & Xudong Zhu
  3. The State Key Laboratory of Plant Molecular Genetics, Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai, China.

    • Jijing Luo
    •  & Hongxuan Lin
  4. Institute of Technical Biology and Agriculture Engineering, Hefei Institutes of Physical Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Hefei, China.

    • Meng Zhao
    •  & Yuejin Wu
  5. The State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and Evolution, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, China.

    • Zhiheng Gou
    •  & Wen Wang

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Contributions

Q.Q., G.D. and L.G. performed assays of nitrogen-use efficiency. S.W., Q.Y. and X.H. developed the RIL populations. X.H. and K.W. conducted the genetic analysis. J.L. and K.W. were responsible for the positional cloning. K.W., J.L. and H.L. developed the NILs. X.Z. and Y.M. identified the mutants. R.H. and Q.L. performed DNA sequence analysis. H.S. and X.H. carried out the yeast two-hybrid and BiFC experiments. H.S. and M.Z. characterized the phenotype of transgenic plants. C.Z., S.W., K.W. and Y.W. performed field experiments. Z.G. and W.W. were responsible for diversity analysis. X.F. designed the experiments and wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Xiangdong Fu.

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    Supplementary Text and Figures

    Supplementary Note, Supplementary Tables 1-5 and Supplementary Figures 1-18

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/ng.2958

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