, Volume 18, Issue 6, pp 865-876,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Seed-specific expression of truncated OsGAD2 produces GABA-enriched rice grains that influence a decrease in blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats


Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a four-carbon amino acid that is commonly present in living organisms and functions as a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in mammals. It is understood to have a potentially anti-hypertensive effect in mammals. GABA is synthesized from glutamate by glutamate decarboxylase (GAD). In plants, GAD is regulated via its calmodulin-binding domain (CaMBD) by Ca2+/CaM. We have previously reported that a C-terminal truncated version of one of the five rice GAD isoforms, GAD2ΔC, revealed higher enzymatic activity in vitro and that its over-expression resulted in exceptionally high GABA accumulation (Akama and Takaiwa, J Exp Bot 58:2699–2607, 2007). In this study, GAD2ΔC, under the control of the rice glutelin promoter (GluB-1), was introduced into rice cells via Agrobacterium-mediated transformation to produce transgenic rice lines. Analysis of the free amino acid content of rice grains revealed up to about a 30-fold higher level of GABA than in non-transformed rice grains. There were also very high levels of various free protein amino acids in the seeds. GABA-enriched rice grains were milled to a fine powder for oral administration to spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRs) and normotensive Wistar-Kyoto rats (WKYs). Six weeks of administration showed that transgenic rice brings about a 20 mmHg decrease in blood pressure in two different kinds of SHRs, while there was no significant hypotensive effect in WKYs. These results suggest an alternative way to control and/or cure hypertension in humans with GABA-enriched rice as part of a common daily diet.