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 the world's first Rhizosphere Frame System for live-imaging of the plant-microbe interactions between root and rhizobium in the soil
The National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) has developed the "Rhizosphere Frame System" for live-imaging of the plant-microbe interactions between plant roots and symbiotic microorganisms in the soil. By this, NARO was able to continuously observe the process of establishing symbiotic relationship between rhizobia and legume roots in soil for the first time in the world.By using this system, the plant-microbe interactions will be further elucidated, and it is expected that this will lead to the development and promotion of efficient technologies for using rhizobia in agriculture, to reduce chemical fertilizer usage and greenhouse gas emissions.
Genome editing of plants by atmospheric pressure plasma treatment
National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO), in collaboration with Chiba University and Tokyo Institute of Technology, has developed a new technology that introduces enzymes necessary for genome editing into plant cells by short-time exposure to atmospheric pressure plasma. In the conventional genome editing technology, introduction of exogenous DNA is required, but this new technology does not require removal of exogenous DNA. Therefore, it is considered to be more convenient and applicable to various plants, and it is expected to become a new tool for breed improvement.
Insect Sex Reversal by Symbiont Reproduced in Cultured Cells
The National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) has achieved a groundbreaking result in understanding the reproductive mechanism of symbiotic microorganisms in insects. In a recent study, researchers led by NARO successfully reproduced the phenomenon of sex reversal, or feminization, caused by the symbiotic microorganism Wolbachia in vitro. By extracting Wolbachia that has a feminizing effect from a lepidopteran pest insect called Ostrinia scapulalis, the research team transferred it into cultured cells established from male O. scapulalis.
Discovery of male-killing gene in insect virus
A "male-killing" virus that is transmitted from insect mothers to eggs and stops the male development has been discovered in a species of Drosophila (fly), and the genome structure of the virus has been determined. This is the first time that a male-killing gene has been identified in a virus. Given the existence of closely related viruses in a variety of insects, we anticipate that viruses with similar functions will be discovered in the near future. The elucidation of the male-killing mechanism will contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the insect sex-determining system, the development of insect pest control, and improvement of natural enemy of pest insects by controlling sex.
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.
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