• Open Access

Suppression of α-amylase genes improves quality of rice grain ripened under high temperature


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High temperature impairs rice (Oryza sativa) grain filling by inhibiting the deposition of storage materials such as starch, resulting in mature grains with a chalky appearance, currently a major problem for rice farming in Asian countries. Such deterioration of grain quality is accompanied by the altered expression of starch metabolism-related genes. Here we report the involvement of a starch-hydrolyzing enzyme, α-amylase, in high temperature-triggered grain chalkiness. In developing seeds, high temperature induced the expression of α-amylase genes, namely Amy1A, Amy1C, Amy3A, Amy3D and Amy3E, as well as α-amylase activity, while it decreased an α-amylase-repressing plant hormone, ABA, suggesting starch to be degraded by α-amylase in developing grains under elevated temperature. Furthermore, RNAi-mediated suppression of α-amylase genes in ripening seeds resulted in fewer chalky grains under high-temperature conditions. As the extent of the decrease in chalky grains was highly correlated to decreases in the expression of Amy1A, Amy1C, Amy3A and Amy3B, these genes would be involved in the chalkiness through degradation of starch accumulating in the developing grains. The results show that activation of α-amylase by high temperature is a crucial trigger for grain chalkiness and that its suppression is a potential strategy for ameliorating grain damage from global warming.