Xerico Drought Tolerance Gene
Drought is a costly natural disaster that causes approximately eight billion dollars in crop losses annually. With a need to provide food, feed, and fuel for nine billion people by 2050, as estimated by the USDA, continuous crop losses due to drought will continue to have a serious impact on food quantities and prices. Additionally, crops, particularly corn, have had increasing utility in the production of biofuels and ethanol. However, high temperatures and rainfall shortages continue to impact crop growth and yields. Therefore, farmers need an economic solution to grow crops that are tolerant to environmental stress, and in particular, drought.
Description of Technology
Michigan State University has developed an invention that confers drought tolerance to plants. This invention is a gene (XERICO) that is induced by drought and involved in the abscisic acid (ABA) signaling pathway. ABA is involved in a variety of plant development and stress responses, including growth regulation and desiccation. Upregulation of XERICO results in increased cellular ABA content, and consequently, drought tolerance. Additionally, the plants recover quickly after dry spells, with no adverse growth effects or phenotypic abnormalities.
MSU has produced transgenic maize expressing XERICO driven by a proprietary drought-inducible promoter. These maize XERICO lines are undergoing seed increase and preliminary field testing in 2016, and field trials are planned for 2017. A picture of control vs. XERICO transgenic plants from a greenhouse experiment are shown below.
MSU is seeking a strategic partner to work with in advancing this technology to market. Opportunities include forming a startup to demonstrate efficacy in field trials with corn and other crops.
- Drought tolerance: plants have low transpirational water loss in dry conditions and adverse responses to salt and osmotic stress are reduced.
- Single gene: XERICO creates drought tolerance through addition of one gene, unlike conventional breeding methods
- Fast drought recovery: plants recover quickly after drought and abiotic stress periods.
- No phenotypic abnormalities: Plant growth and leaves were unaffected.
- Broad utility: publications by MSU’s inventors and others have shown that XERICO works in dicots and monocots such as rice and corn.
US Patent: 7,977,535
US Patent: 9,371,539 B2
Jae-Heung Ko, Kyung-Hwan Han
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Michigan State University