Nav: Home

The origin and spread of 'Emperor's rice'

September 25, 2015

Black rice has a rich cultural history; called "Emperor's" rice, it was reserved for the Emperor in ancient China and used as a tribute food. In the time since, it remained popular in certain regions of China and recently has become prized worldwide for its high levels of antioxidants. Despite its long history, the origins of black rice have not been clear. Black rice cultivars are found in locations scattered throughout Asia. However, most cultivated rice (species Oryza sativa) produces white grains, and the wild relative Oryza rufipogon has red grains. The color of rice grains is determined by which colored pigments they accumulate (or fail to accumulate, in the case of white rice). For instance, the pro-anthocyanidins that give wild rice grains their characteristic red color are not produced in white rice due to a mutation in a gene controlling pro-anthocyanidin biosynthesis. The color in black rice is known to be due to anthocyanin pigments, but how these came to be made in the grains was not known.

A paper to be published this week in The Plant Cell reveals the answer to the long-standing question of how black rice became black and, moreover, traces the history of the trait from its molecular origin to its spread into modern-day varieties of rice. Researchers from two institutions in Japan collaborated to meticulously examine the genetic basis for the black color in rice grains. They discovered that the trait arose due to a rearrangement in a gene called Kala4, which activates the production of anthocyanins. They concluded that this rearrangement must have originally occurred in the tropical japonica subspecies of rice and that the black rice trait was then transferred into other varieties (including those found today) by crossbreeding.

According the study's lead scientist, Dr. Takeshi Izawa, "The birth and spread of novel agronomical traits during crop domestication are complex events in plant evolution." This new work on black rice helps explain the history of domestication of rice by ancient humans, during which they selected for desirable traits including grain color.
-end-


American Society of Plant Biologists

Related Rice Articles:

High-protein rice brings value, nutrition
A new advanced line of rice, with higher yield, is ready for final field testing prior to release.
Rice plants engineered to be better at photosynthesis make more rice
A new bioengineering approach for boosting photosynthesis in rice plants could increase grain yield by up to 27 percent, according to a study publishing January 10, 2019 in the journal Molecular Plant.
Can rice filter water from ag fields?
While it's an important part of our diets, new research shows that rice plants can be used in a different way, too: to clean runoff from farms before it gets into rivers, lakes, and streams.
Rice plants evolve to adapt to flooding
Although water is essential for plant growth, excessive amounts can waterlog and kill a plant.
Breeding better Brazilian rice
Rice production in Brazil is a multi-billion-dollar industry. It employs hundreds of thousands of people, directly and indirectly.
More Rice News and Rice Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...