News Releases 2005

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June 24, 2005

Honda and Nagoya University Jointly Isolate Rice Gene; Research Effort Will Greatly Increase Corp Yields

Tokyo, June 23, 2005 --- Honda Research Institute Japan Co., Ltd. (HRI-JP), a subsidiary of Honda R&D Co., Ltd., and Nagoya University became the first in the world to successfully isolate a gene which dramatically increases the crop yield of a rice plant.

The gene, named "Gn1a," is one of the genes involved in cytokinin degradation, which has an important role in the growth of plants. Cytokinin is a bioactive substance that triggers anthogenesis and facilitates growth of the flower bud. Enzymes produced by the Gn1a gene degrade cytokinin. The joint research determined that when this enzyme activity is low the number of rice grains increases, thus increasing crop yield. This is the first time in the world a gene that directly controls rice crop yields has been identified, and the findings will be published through an online version of Science, an American scientific journal, June 23, 2005, as well as in the original journal in the following weeks.

In 2002, Honda and Nagoya University successfully isolated a semi-dwarfing gene called "sd1" which reduces the height of rice plants and contributes to the effort to increase the yields. For the latest research, HRI-JP and Nagoya University cultivated "Koshihikari", the most popular type of rice in Japan, bred to have both sd1 and Gn1a genes. Crop yields of this plant increased 23%, and higher resistance against plants falling over was demonstrated as well. Utilizing the effects of these genes, in the future it may no longer be a dream to achieve a substantial increase in crop yields for all breeds of rice plants cultivated around the world.

Experts say that crop yields of all cereals including rice must be increased over 50% in order to circumvent a potential global food crisis in the near future. Rice is an important crop serving as a food staple for approximately half of the world's population. Increasing rice crop yields can lead the way to avoid a global food shortage. As other major cereal crops such as corn and wheat also have a similar genetic structure, the latest findings by HRI-JP and Nagoya University may be applicable to other crops.

Honda has been committed to addressing issues of environmental protection and energy conservation and has been conducting multidimensional efforts leading to the development of technologies for improvement of fuel efficiency evolved from Honda's VTEC technology, hybrid engine technology and fuel-cell technology. As part of its "Commitment for the Future," Honda is pursuing its R&D efforts in a new area of science technology of this century - genome science -- by building a foundation in the research of rice, which is a model plant for plant genetic research.

Left : Normal Koshihikari
Center : Koshihikari with increased number of grains by Gn1a
Right : Koshihikari with increased number of grains and short stature by both Gn1a and sd1

(bottom row shows rice grain clusters)