• activation tagging;
  • bioavailability;
  • mouse;
  • nicotianamine;
  • rice;
  • zinc


We generated rice lines with increased content of nicotianamine (NA), a key ligand for metal transport and homeostasis. This was accomplished by activation tagging of rice nicotianamine synthase 2 (OsNAS2). Enhanced expression of the gene resulted in elevated NA levels, greater Zn accumulations and improved plant tolerance to a Zn deficiency. Expression of Zn-uptake genes and those for the biosynthesis of phytosiderophores (PS) were increased in transgenic plants. This suggests that the higher amount of NA led to greater exudation of PS from the roots, as well as stimulated Zn uptake, translocation and seed-loading. In the endosperm, the OsNAS2 activation-tagged line contained up to 20-fold more NA and 2.7-fold more zinc. Liquid chromatography combined with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry revealed that the total content of zinc complexed with NA and 2′-deoxymugineic acid was increased 16-fold. Mice fed with OsNAS2-D1 seeds recovered more rapidly from a zinc deficiency than did control mice receiving WT seeds. These results demonstrate that the level of bio-available zinc in rice grains can be enhanced significantly by activation tagging of OsNAS2.