BOTANY

Irn Bru

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Science  11 May 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5519, pp. 1023
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5519.1023d

Plant crop productivity is limited by the availability of iron in the soil, which is governed by the physicochemical characteristics of the soil type. Despite its abundance in alkaline soils, iron is poorly soluble and little is available for plant uptake under such conditions. Rice is especially vulnerable to iron limitation, because its roots produce relatively little of the iron-solubilizing proteins known as mugineic acid family phytosiderophores (MAs). Now Takahashi et al. have shown that this weakness can be compensated for by introducing the genes encoding the key MAs—nicotianamine synthase and nicotianamine aminotransferase—from barley. Transgenic rice plants express the genes, secrete MAs, and stay green and healthy when iron is in short supply, and show fourfold greater productivity than normal rice. — CA

Nature Biotechnol.19, 466 (2001).

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