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Transgenic rice overproducing Rubisco exhibits increased yields with improved nitrogen-use efficiency in an experimental paddy field


The green revolution’s breeding of semi-dwarf rice cultivars in the 1960s improved crop yields, with large increases in the use of nitrogen (N) fertilizer. However, excess N application has caused serious environmental problems, including acid rain and the eutrophication of rivers and oceans. To use N to improve crop yields, while minimizing the associated environmental costs, there is a need to produce crops with higher N-use efficiency and higher yield components. Here we show that transgenic rice overproducing ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase–oxygenase (Rubisco)—the key enzyme of photosynthesis—exhibits increased yields with improved N-use efficiency for increasing biomass production when receiving sufficient N fertilization in an experimental paddy field. This field experiment demonstrates an improvement in photosynthesis linked to yield increase due to a higher N-use efficiency in a major crop.

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Fig. 1: The effect of N fertilizer on the plant N content of the above-ground section of plants and the total dry matter of wild-type, RBCS-sense and RBCS-antisense rice plants at the full-heading and harvesting stages.
Fig. 2: Relationships between grain (brown rice) yield, yield components and the plant N content of the above-ground section per unit land area in wild-type, RBCS-sense and RBCS-antisense plants at the harvesting stage.
Fig. 3: Changes in the Rubisco content per unit land area in flag leaves of wild-type, RBCS-sense and RBCS-antisense rice plants during the ripening stages.

Data availability

Source data for Figs. 1, 2 and 3 are provided with the paper. The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request.


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This study was supported by KAKENHI Grant No. JP16H06379 (to A.M.) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and by Core Research for Environmental Science and Technology Scientific Research Grant No. JPMJCR1503 (to Y.S. and A.M.) from the Japan Society for Technology. We are grateful to M. Seki of Kyusyu University for critical advice on statistical analyses and also thank our colleagues and laboratory members for technical support during our field experiments. This work was registered on 18 May 2016 at the Biosafety Clearing-House Management Centre, which is established under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity (an international agreement on biosafety created as a supplement to the Convention on Biological Diversity effective since 2003).

Author information




K.I., M. Obara, T.M. and A.M. designed the research. D.-K.Y., K.I., M.W., S.I., M. Ogura and Y.S. performed most of the experiments, as well as the growth, biomass and yield analyses. M.S. and Y.T. performed the biochemical and physiological experiments. K.I., H.I, T.M. and A.M. analysed the data, and K.I. and A.M. wrote most of the article.

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Correspondence to Amane Makino.

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Yoon, DK., Ishiyama, K., Suganami, M. et al. Transgenic rice overproducing Rubisco exhibits increased yields with improved nitrogen-use efficiency in an experimental paddy field. Nat Food 1, 134–139 (2020).

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