Our studies demonstrated the potential usefulness of the Taiwan Rice
Insertional Mutagenesis (TRIM) library for the functional analysis of rice
genes. The design of multiple function T-DNA for generating the mutant
library has resulted in several unique features such as:
1) T-DNA insertions are distributed relatively evenly throughout the rice
genome, which confers high gene tagging efficiency.
2) The low copy numbers of T-DNA insertion and rather inactive transposon
reduce the tedious effort of genotype vs. phenotype analysis in each single
3) The gene activation tagging system frequently yields valuable mutants
that traditional gene knockout tagging strategies might have missed.
4) The gene promoter trap system facilitates high-throughput identification
of genes active in specific organs or tissues of rice grown under standard
or induced conditions.
5) The searchable T-DNA FST database is linked to the phenotype database
and seed catalogue, which allows for an accelerated functional analysis of
Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or
synthesis of knowledge?
Based on our highly efficient rice transformation and bioinformatics
technologies and skillful rice field management, our team have generated
the large TRIM library (containing 60,000 mutant lines) and established a
searchable flanking sequence tag (FST) database (containing 35,000 mutant
genes). Theoretically, 50% of computer-predicted 37,000 rice genes are
tagged by T-DNA in the TRIM library.
In terms of mutant utility and quality, user friendly database, and number
of mutant seeds available for study, the TRIM library and database are
ranked among the best of the four similar-sized large rice mutant libraries
worldwide (Taiwan, Korea, China, and France). Our paper elaborates why
these resources are valuable and how they could be used for identification
and functional studies of novel rice genes.
Would you summarize the significance of your paper in
Our paper provides detailed information on the unique features and utility
of the TRIM library, and thus has received international attention. The
extraordinarily precious TRIM mutant library and database are open to the
public and have served as a driving force in the functional study of rice
genes. Hundreds of mutant lines from this library have been studied by labs
in Taiwan and throughout the world. Essential genes identified through
study of the TRIM library could be used to improve not only rice but also
other cereal crops, such as wheat and corn, and grass species, such as
Miscanthesis and switchgrass, which are very much needed in order
to ensure food and bioenergy security for the rapidly growing world
How did you become involved in this research, and were
there any problems along the way?
Rice is one of the most important crops in the world. Taken together, rice,
wheat, and maize account for 60% of the world's food production, and rice
itself is the principal food of nearly 50% of the world’s population.
These cereal crops share a large degree of similarity. Due to several
advantages of rice over other cereals, such as smallest genome size (400
Mb) and the relative ease of transformation, identified rice genes
facilitate the study of homologous genes in other cereal crops, making rice
an excellent model cereal crop for genomics research and the choice for
complete genome sequencing.
demonstrated the potential
usefulness of the Taiwan Rice
Insertional Mutagenesis (TRIM)
library for the functional analysis
of rice genes."
The challenge of the post-genome era is to understand the functions of the
huge number of genes predicted by sequence information. Development of a
large mutant rice population will be extremely valuable for the functional
analysis of rice genes. It is for the reasons noted above, and also in
order to keep pace with the world trends in competitive plant science
research, that I became involved in this research.
I did encounter problems from time to time since the research project was
started in 2003. For examples, to secure adequate funds, I had to write
many grant proposals which were sent yearly to various sources and also to
repeatedly rebut reviewers’ criticisms. In order to establish an
efficient and functional pipeline for generating the mutant library, I had
to assemble a skilled multidisciplinary team to carry out high throughput
rice transformation, cultivation, propagation, agronomic trait evaluation,
and seed stock, along with the bioinformatics and molecular biology
analyses of mutant genes. I also had to solve many unforeseen technical
hurdles during these processes.
In order to promote utilization of the precious mutant library, I had to
give countless lectures and seminars, write letters, and publish papers in
order to convince more plant biologists to join the area of rice research,
Where do you see your research leading in the
For years, my research efforts mainly focused on how sugar signaling
crosstalks with other signaling pathways (e.g., hormone, environmental
stimulus, and metabolic signaling pathways) and plays a pleiotropic role
regulating cellular activities, plant growth, development, and stress
responses. Many of my colleagues and I are also interested in studying the
functions of genes essential for improving plant growth performance (e.g.,
abiotic and biotic stress resistance and high yield).
With the completion of rice genomic sequences and available genetic tools
(rice transformation technology and the creation of a mutant library), rice
functional genomics approaches certainly play an essential role in these
studies and are building our rice research programs into a competitive
position within the world plant science community. Our original and
innovative research has led to many excellent papers published in
high-impact international journals, invitations to contribute various
review articles, and seminars at international meetings and research
Do you foresee any social or political implications for
Our research contributes significantly to the understanding of how plant
growth and development are controlled, as well as outlining the
transformation of conventional agriculture through the use of modern
technology, which has had a major impact on establishing global sustainable
Additionally, the valuable TRIM library and database are being shared
throughout the international plant science community, which contributes
significantly to basic research in worldwide cereal and crop improvement.
These accomplishments have opened up a channel for the international
recognition of numerous excellent research contributions from Taiwan.
My contributions are also highly regarded and appreciated internationally,
as evidenced by my election, in 2005, to membership in the Academy of
Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS), an association of distinguished
scholars supporting scientific excellence and research.
Distinguished Research Fellow
Institute of Molecular Biology
Taiwan, Republic of China