Possible Production of Drought-Resistant Crops Enabled

Professor Woo Taek Kim
(left on the first row)
Department of Systems Biology,
Yonsei University

■ Life Sciences /

Possible Production of Drought-Resistant Crops Enabled

The gene that acts negatively in plant tolerance responses to drought stress has been identified by the research team led by Professor Woo Taek Kim.


Approximately 30% of the world’s area under cultivation is facing drought stress, and over 50% of the maximum crop production capacity is estimated to disappear due to environment stress including drought stress. This is increasing the need for developing new stress-resistant varieties to actively respond to such drought stress. Crop development through the discovery of genes that respond to environmental stress is drawing attention as a core field to resolve food shortages and increase the competitiveness of the agriculture and life industry.

A team led by Professor Woo Taek Kim at Department of Systems Biology, Yonsei University, confirmed the possibility to produce drought-resistant crops by identifying the function of a gene that acts as a negative factor in plant tolerance responses to drought stress and its detailed mechanism through 100% domestic research. The study’s results were published in the December issue of “The Plant Cell” in 2016, the most prestigious journal published by the American Society of Plant Biologists in the field of plant biology.

A schematic presentation of cellular role of the U-box E3 Ub ligase PUB18 in ABA-mediated stomatal closure in response to drought stress in Arabidopsis

Professor Kim’s team found that PUB18, which is a U-box type E3 ubiquitin ligase that controls the signal transduction process for abscisic acid (ABA), a hormone that regulates plant responses to stress, acts as a negative factor that degrades the protein Exo70B1 in the plant response of signal transmission to drought stress. As a result, the team identified that a knock-out mutant in which the negative regulator PUB18 gene had been removed showed strong tolerance to drought stress.

This study found that the deletion of genes that act as negative factors can generate resistance to drought stress. The combination of the study’s results with CRISPR/Cas9 nuclear nucleases will enable the development of non-GMO crops resistant to environmental stress. Moreover, the application of these basic research results to agriculture is likely to improve crop yields through the development of new varieties that show strong tolerance to environmental stress.

This study was supported by the Woo Jang Choon Special Project by Rural Development Administration (RDA).

Updated in Dec 2017

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Title of original article:The N-terminal UND motif of Arabidopsis U-box E3 ligase PUB18 is critical for the negative regulation of ABA-mediated stomatal movement and determination of its ubiquitination specificity to Exo70B1
Journal: The Plant Cell
DOI: 10.1105/tpc.16.00347
Contact corresponding author: Woo Taek Kim (wtkim@yonsei.ac.kr)