Given the continuously growing population and decreasing arable land, food shortage is becoming one of the most serious global problems in this century1. Grain size is one of the determining factors for grain yield and thus is a prime target for genetic breeding2,3. Although a number of quantitative trait loci (QTLs) associated with rice grain size have been identified in the past decade, mechanisms underlying their functions remain largely unknown4,5. Here we show that a grain-length-associated QTL, GL2, has the potential to improve grain weight and grain yield up to 27.1% and 16.6%, respectively. We also show that GL2 is allelic to OsGRF4 and that it contains mutations in the miR396 targeting sequence. Because of the mutation, GL2 has a moderately increased expression level, which consequently activates brassinosteroid responses by upregulating a large number of brassinosteroid-induced genes to promote grain development. Furthermore, we found that GSK2, the central negative regulator of rice brassinosteroid signalling, directly interacts with OsGRF4 and inhibits its transcription activation activity to mediate the specific regulation of grain length by the hormone. Thus, this work demonstrates the feasibility of modulating specific brassinosteroid responses to improve plant productivity.
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This work was supported by grants from National Natural Science Foundation of China (91435106, 91335203, 31170715), Ministry of Agriculture of China (2014ZX08009), Natural Science Foundation of Fujian Province (B0420002) and Youth Innovation Promotion Association CAS (2015076).
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Che, R., Tong, H., Shi, B. et al. Control of grain size and rice yield by GL2-mediated brassinosteroid responses. Nature Plants 2, 15195 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nplants.2015.195
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