A research team around the National Institute of Environmental Agrobiosciences (NIAS) has identified the gene responsible for reduced Cd uptake and developed a strategy for marker-assisted selection of low-Cd cultivars. Sequence analysis revealed that these mutants have different mutations of the same gene (OsNRAMP5), which encodes a natural resistance-associated macrophage protein. Functional analysis revealed that the defective transporter protein encoded by the mutant osnramp5 greatly decreases Cd uptake by roots, resulting in decreased Cd in the straw and grain. In addition, DNA markers wee identified which facilitate marker-assisted selection of cultivars carrying osnramp5. When grown in Cd-contaminated paddy fields, the mutants had nearly undetectable Cd in their grains and exhibit no agriculturally or economically adverse traits. Because mutants produced by ion-beam radiation are not transgenic plants, they are likely to be accepted by consumers and thus represent a practical choice for rice production worldwide.

S Ishikawa et al., PNAS November 6, 2012, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1211132109