The Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, NARO (NIAS) focuses on understanding the biological phenomena of agriculturally important plants, insects, microbes and animals to create innovative technologies, and eventually contribute to the solution of global issues such as food shortage due to rapid population growth and environmental problems due to climate change. NIAS is doing research and development to create new industries and new demands in the field of agricultural and medicinal industries by applying genetic engineering technologies to plants, insects and animals. In plants, for example, we are developing new rice varieties resistant to major diseases including blast. Moreover, we will include non-clinical and clinical research trials of rice-based edible vaccines for curing cedar pollinosis. In insects, we are developing medicinal materials from silk protein and medicines for humans and animals using transgenic silkworm. Furthermore, we are developing transgenic pigs to produce immune-deficit pigs and animal models for human diseases.
Development of production technology for practical use of silk that can be functionalized by click chemistry
National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) has developed a production technology for the practical use of silk that incorporates "chemical handles" which can easily connect desired functional molecules by click chemistry using genetically modified silkworms. "Chemical handle" is a synthetic amino acid with a functional group called an azido group, and by connecting functional molecules such as pigments and drugs, it is possible to modify the silk properties. In 2014, we developed the basic technology, and significantly improved the efficiency of incorporating the "chemical handles"in 2018. By this research, it is expected that efforts toward the social implementation of silk fiber with sensing function and silk materials that combine drugs for medical purposes will be accelerated.
Elucidation of the symbiotic bacterial communities of the red mite, a major threat to poultry farming
The red mite, Dermanyssus gallinae, is a harmful mite which causes damage such as decrease in egg production by sucking blood of chickens. Many commercial pesticides are used to exterminate red mites, but the development of resistance to these pesticides has become a major problem. Many harmful arthropods that suck the blood of animals have symbiotic bacteria that are indispensable for their survival. National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) and SC Environmental Science Co., Ltd. analyzed the symbiotic bacterial communities of red mites and identified a symbiotic bacterium that could act as a target site of action for potential pesticides.
Development of method for producing tomatoes resistant to emerging virus diseases
Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV) is a pathogenic virus of tomato that has emerged in recent years and has become a serious problem worldwide. A new control method has been sought as the existing resistance genes were not effective against ToBRFV. National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) and Takii & Co., Ltd. have demonstrated by genome editing technology that tomatoes with strong resistance to ToBRFV can be produced by disabling the genes of tomato that the virus utilizes for their multiplication. This research result is expected to contribute to the suppression of ToBRFV if the development and popularization of ToBRFV resistant tomato cultivars progresses.
Exploring the mystery of "Snow mold disease" that molds the crop under snow
Snow mold is a serious disease that withers wheat and grasses. National Agricultural Food Research Organization(NARO), in collaboration with Hokkaido University and The Hachinohe Institute of Technology, has first identified the snow mold fungi that infect the model plant Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) and developed an experimental system to evaluate the resistance of plants to snow mold fungi using Arabidopsis. It is expected that this experimental system will further elucidate molecular mechanisms of plants resistance to snow mold infection, which has not been known so far. Based on this knowledge, the development of varieties of wheat, barley, grasses, etc. with strong snow mold resistance as well as snow mold control technology is expected to progress.
Extension and publication of silkworm gene expression data
The National Agricultural Food Research Organization (NARO) has created and published the data indicating the type of gene and where & to what extent they work (comprehensive gene expression) in silkworm larvae during the critical period for silk protein production. It is expected that this research outcome will further highlight the high protein synthesis capacity of silkworms and pave the way for using silkworms for the production of useful proteins.
A mechanism regulating rice root thickness under the mild drought condition
The National Agricultural Food Research Organization (NARO) scientists have collected phenomes and transcriptomes of 61 rice accessions with highly diverse below-ground traits grown in an upland field. NARO team discovered genes negatively associated with root growth under the mild drought condition. The study could lead to development of drought-resistant rice cultivars and provides insights on the genomic and transcriptomic basis of phenotypic variation under upland field conditions.
Identification of key substances for desiccation tolerance in an anhydrobiotic insect and elucidation of their functions
The National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO), in collaboration with the Riken research institute, etc. have identified key substances that are accumulated during the desiccation and rehydration (re-immersion in water) of Polypedilum vanderplanki, an anhydrobiotic insect, and have elucidated their functions. By utilizing the substances identified from this research, it is expected to pave the way for the development of a new technology for storing cells at room temperature.
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