Iron (Fe) deficiency is a worldwide agricultural problem on calcareous soils with low-Fe availability due to high soil pH. Rice plants use a well documented phytosiderophore-based system (Strategy II) to take up Fe from the soil and also possess a direct Fe(2+) transport system. Rice plants are extremely susceptible to low-Fe supply, however, because of low phytosiderophore secretion and low Fe(3+) reduction activity. A yeast Fe(3+) chelate-reductase gene refre1/372, selected for better performance at high pH, was fused to the promoter of the Fe-regulated transporter, OsIRT1, and introduced into rice plants. The transgene was expressed in response to a low-Fe nutritional status in roots of transformants. Transgenic rice plants expressing the refre1/372 gene showed higher Fe(3+) chelate-reductase activity and a higher Fe-uptake rate than vector controls under Fe-deficient conditions. Consequently, transgenic rice plants exhibited an enhanced tolerance to low-Fe availability and 7.9x the grain yield of nontransformed plants in calcareous soils. This report shows that enhancing the Fe(3+) chelate-reductase activity of rice plants that normally have low endogenous levels confers resistance to Fe deficiency.
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