Molecular and cellular mechanisms of plant growth and development under temperature stress

In the present world there is a huge imbalance between population growth and food production. By 2050, world population will increase by 34% to 9.1 billion, whereas potential cultivable land area will increase only 5% ((FAO; www. In addition, crops susceptibility to various abiotic stresses, such as temperature stress, make it  a difficult task  to maintaining the crop production. For instance, low temperature stress caused financial damage totaling 158 billion yen in fiscal year 2009 (Rahman, 2012, Ashraf and Rahman, 2018). Global warming also causes serious damage to the crop productivity. The combined annual loss rendered by high temperature is $5 billion (Lobell and Field, 2007).

Because of the current climatic changes, temperature stress will have a huge impact in future crop production. Our research aims to produce new breeds of crops that can tolerate temperature stress by understanding the molecular mechanism of temperature stress regulation pathway in plant.

Molecular mechanism of herbicide action use of herbicides is an integral part of agriculture and the current world herbicide market share is $ 48 billion. Japan's agriculture also uses a large amount of herbicide, its market size is 920 billion yen. The use of this large amount of herbicide has a huge impact on environmental balance. Among the available herbicides, auxinic herbicides are the most widely used herbicides around the world. These herbicides possess selectivity which kill only dicots but not the monocots. However, the molecular mechanism of the selectivity of these herbicides has not yet been elucidated. We identified actin as a molecular target of these herbicides. Auxinic herbicides 2,4-D, dicamba and picloram break down actin, but naturally occurring auxin IAA bundles it slightly (Rahman et al., 2006; Nakasone et al., 2012; Takahashi et al., 2018, unpublished data).

Our laboratory focuses on finding molecular regulators that are specifically associated with this phenomenon. We believe that finding genes that regulate this process will help us to develop more efficient herbicides, reduce the use of herbicides in the agriculture sector and make agriculture practices more environmentally friendly


Elucidation of new metal transporters to facilitate phytoremediation

Soil contamination with various metals such as cadmium, cesium and arsenic is a big problem for safe crop production. Phytoremediation is a smart, environmentally friendly, low cost technology to eliminate such soil contamination. The success of phytoremediation technology depends largely on the transport of metal from soil to plants. Therefore, finding new specific transporters for specific metals is an important issue. Our laboratory focuses on identifying new uptake transporters for cesium, cadmium and arsenic. Recently, we identified two new cesium uptake transporters. The next step is to develop new transgenic plants that overexpresses or have mutations in these uptake transporters, which will be used to clean up the soil or growing crops that will not uptake the metal contaminants.