- Plant biology
Agricultural and food sciences
- Agricultural plant production
- Horticultural production
Insect resistance and herbicide tolerance have been introduced in crops by genetic engineering to increase crop yield. Tolerance to abiotic stress conditions and enhanced yield stability are important features of the next generation biotech crops. However, the commercialization of these more complex traits has had only limited success. One reason is that expression of the biotech traits is mainly controlled by a limited number of constitutive promoters. Moreover, traits that enhance productivity under abiotic stress conditions often cause a yield penalty in the absence of stress. To circumvent these problems, growth-enhancing and stress-tolerant traits should be expressed in a specific spatiotemporal manner and in the correct dosage. This can be achieved by the careful selection of tissue-specific and drought-responsive promoters. The Inzé-lab has specialized in molecular mechanisms that control leaf growth and drought tolerance, resulting in a high-resolution platform for the identification of growth-enhancing and drought-tolerant genes and promoters in maize. This unique knowledge will be combined with the GAL4-UAS transactivation system to develop a time- and labor-saving strategy to test and select optimal promoter-gene combinations for maize improvement. Thereto, we will demonstrate proof of concept of (i) the functionality of the GAL4-UAS transactivation system in maize, and (ii) specific spatiotemporal and drought-inducible expression to enhance yield and drought tolerance in maize. Newly identified promoter-gene combinations will be patented and the generated intellectual property creates spin-off potential and will attract strong interest from industry.