Researchers led by Sedeek et al. have made significant strides in understanding and enhancing pigmented rice varieties, according to a study published in 2023. Pigmented rice, known for its rich nutrient content, has traditionally been limited by long life cycles and lower productivity than other rice varieties. However, the team’s innovative use of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing could present a breakthrough in cultivating these nutrient-dense crops.
In their study, the researchers generated genome assemblies of five pigmented rice varieties and analyzed the genetic variation among 51 such varieties by resequencing an additional 46 varieties. Phylogenetic analyses, which study the evolutionary relationships between species, divided these varieties into four distinct groups: Geng-japonica, Xian-indica, circum-Aus, and circum-Basmati.
The study made significant strides in understanding the nutrient content of pigmented rice. Metabolomics and ionomics profiling – technologies used to study a biological sample’s small molecules and ion composition – revealed that black rice varieties are rich in secondary aromatic metabolites. These compounds, derived from the plant’s metabolism, often have beneficial health properties, bolstering the nutritional value of black rice.
The researchers then applied the revolutionary gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 to create an early maturing, high-yield variety of black Indonesian rice called Cempo Ireng. By knocking out three flowering time repressors (Hd2, Hd4, and Hd5), the team was able to develop a variety that matures earlier and has a shorter stature, making it more productive and easier to cultivate.
This successful application of CRISPR-Cas9 technology to pigmented rice varieties provides a powerful new tool for crop scientists looking to improve rice productivity and nutritional content. It also offers a versatile platform for future crop enhancement strategies in other species, potentially leading to more sustainable and nutritious agricultural practices.
The research by Sedeek et al. represents a multi-omics resource that contributes significantly to our understanding of Asian pigmented rice. This work, paving the way for further developments in crop science, could be instrumental in improving global food security and advancing sustainable agriculture practices.