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That's the Shape of It

Two groups of researchers have homed in on the gene responsible for the shape and texture of rice, Nature News reports.

The teams, both from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, zeroed in on the gene alternatively known as GL7 or GW7, and linked variants in it to long, thin rice grains that lack a chalky taste, as they reported in Nature Genetics.

GL7 affects grain shape by promoting longitudinal cell division rather than transverse cell division, and the more copies of the gene variant the rice plant has, the more slender its rice grains, Nature News notes, adding that the slender allele is dominant. The variant, it adds, doesn't seem to affect yield.

Some breeders had already unknowingly taken advantage of this gene, as it is highly expressed in two US rice varieties and one Chinese variety. But now that it's been uncovered, Nature News says it can more easily be targeted.

"There are already some varieties that exist in the Chinese market that contain these alleles," says Guosheng Xiong from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, one of the papers' authors, tells Nature News. "But with this knowledge, we can introduce it to some varieties that have good taste and cooking qualities but don't look good."