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Research Team Develops Multiomics Resources for Pigment Rice Improvement

Multiomics resources for the improvement of pigmented rice are presented in Nature Food this week. Pigmented rice represents a highly nutrient-rich food source, but most varieties have long life cycles and suboptimal plant height, which limits their productivity. To help efforts to improve the agronomic value of the crop, a team led by scientists from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia evaluated the genetic variation among 51 pigmented rice varieties by generating genome assemblies of five pigmented rice varieties and resequencing an additional 46 varieties. The researchers performed phylogenetic analyses to divide the varieties into four major varietal groups, followed by metabolomics and ionomics profiling to characterize the metabolites and elemental composition of the varieties and identify superior nutrition traits. Lastly, they developed regeneration and transformation system and used CRISPR genome editing to knock out genes related to flowering time in one of the rice varieties, resulting earlier maturation and shorter stature. "This work provides important resources that give a clear roadmap for stakeholders (including crop bioengineers and breeders) to install desirable traits of value and to introduce pigmented rice into the food chain to improve human health and reduce the burden of malnutrition in developing and developed countries," the researchers write.