Plant Gene Regulation Research Group
research project

Research projects

Development of molecular breeding technology for improvement of latex production

 We are conducting an international collaborative research project with Indonesia’s Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) and Bridgestone. Our aim is development of molecular breeding technology to improve latex production in natural rubber trees.

Producing new wood in plant with no wood

Advanced low carbon technology research and development program (PI of this project; Nobutaka Mitsuda)

 In order to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide, it is requested to expand the production of second generation bioethanol using inedible plant woody material as an ingredient. One of the current issues is to develop a plant forming a new woody material (cell wall) which can produce bioethanol and/or other materials at a low cost and in large amounts in comparison with a normal wood material. We are trying to produce new woody substance by additionally expressing various genes in Arabidopsis plant which doesn't produce any woody substance due to mutation of important regulatory genes (NST1 and NST3; Fig. 1)(1)

(Fig. 1) Concept of this study
The mutant Arabidopsis plant (nst1 nst3 double mutant) with no wood can't stand erect. This plant is like an empty box because woody substance occupies more than half of plant dry biomass. We express various genes under the control of NST3 promoter which is specifically active in fiber cells to produce new woody substance. In this screening, we sometimes can find the transgenic plant which can stand or show better stem strength and then we analyze the produced new woody substance to examine if it is suitable for our purpose. In the mutant plant, whole wood formation pathway is inactivated by the disruption of important regulatory genes. We expect a part of the pathway is activated by the introduction of particular gene.

So far, many genes were found to produce new wood in empty fiber cells of the nst1 nst3 double mutant (2). Here we would like to introduce OsSWN1 gene which is orthologous gene of the NST1 and NST3 (3). It is not surprising that the OsSWN1 restored the wood formation but the result was more than expected (4). As outlined in Fig. 2, clear over-accumulation of woody substance was observed in poplar as well as Arabidopsis even when the OsSWN1 was introduced into wild-type background (4).

See more detail by press release

(Fig. 2) Wood reinforcement by OsSWN1 gene
Rice orthologous gene of NST, OsSWN1 increased wood accumulation even in wild-type background poplar as well as Arabidopsis (not shown). The red staining in middle panel indicates accumulation of lignin, one of the major components of wood.

Besides this example, we have already found many other interesting genes which could produce unique cell walls in empty fiber cells of nst1 nst3 mutant and are under investigation. We believe our strategy will contribute to future development of new wood which is easily processed for industrial uses.

Development of novel technologies for the production of “super plants” by modification of gene expression mechanisms

Funding program for next generation world-leading researchers (PI of this project; Sumire Fujiwara)
 We aim for developing novel technologies for producing “super-plants” by the modification of gene expression mechanisms. One approach we are taking is the investigation of negative gene regulation mechanisms that would lead to the invention of radically new technologies. Another approach is comprehensive generation of plants expressing a functionally converted (negative to positive) transcription factor and screening for the lines which have acquired useful traits such as stress resistance and higher yield.

Application and evaluation of CRES-T to rice

Rice functional genomics project (PI of this project; Masaru Ohme-Takagi)

Other research themes

  • Functional analysis of plant transcription factors using CRES-T and its application to biotechnology
  • Elucidation of molecular mechanism of transcriptional repression specific to plant
  • Unraveling regulatory network of wood formation
  • Functional analysis of transcription factors involved in jasmonic acid signaling
  • Functional analysis of transcription factors involved in cuticle development
  • Elucidation of regulatory mechanism of plant involved in heavy metal response
  • Elucidation of regulatory mechanism of plant involved in ozone tolerance
  • Functional analysis of transcription factors involved in heat-stress response
  • Development of molecular breeding technology for economically valuable plants
  • Elucidation of regulatory mechanism involved in plant growth
  • Development of genetically modified plants with valuable traits suitable for their production in plant factory
  • Functional analysis of transcription factors involved in drought tolerance or delayed senescence in plants
  • Development of new methodology to reveal transcriptional regulatory network

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*About BPRI

Bioproduction Research Institute

AIST Hokkaido
2-17-2-1, Tsukisamu-Higashi,
Toyohira Ward, Sapporo City,
Hokkaido, 062-8517 Japan
AIST Tsukuba Central 6
Central 6,1-1-1 Higashi, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8566 Japan