Carbohydrates (sugars) are an essential energy-source for all life forms. They take a significant share of our daily consumption and are used for biofuel production as well. However, sugarcane and sugar beet are the only two crop plants which are used to produce sugar in significant amounts. Here, we have discovered and fine-tuned a phenomenon in rice which leads them to produce sugary-grain. We knocked-out GCS1 genes in rice by using CRISPR technology, which led to fertilization failure and pollen tube-dependent ovule enlargement morphology (POEM) phenomenon. Apparently, the POEMed-like rice ovule (‘endosperm-focused’) can grow near-normal seed-size unlike earlier observations in Arabidopsis in which gcs1 ovules (‘embryo-focused’) were aborted quite early. The POEMed-like rice ovules contained 10–20% sugar, with extremely high sucrose content (98%). Trancriptomic analysis revealed that the osgcs1 ovules had downregulation of starch biosynthetic genes, which would otherwise have converted sucrose to starch. Overall, this study shows that pollen tube content release is sufficient to trigger sucrose unloading at rice ovules. However, successful fertilization is indispensable to trigger sucrose-starch conversion. These findings are expected to pave the way for developing novel sugar producing crops suited for diverse climatic regions.
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