Transcription Factor-Based Genetic Engineering to Increase Nitrogen Use Efficiency

  • Yoshiaki Ueda
  • Shuichi YanagisawaEmail author


Increasing nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) in crops is a hurdle that needs to be cleared in order to improve crop yields. However, owing to the large number of genes and metabolic pathways involved in nitrogen uptake and utilization, simple approaches for genetic engineering for increased NUE involving the overexpression of single genes for transporters or enzymes related to nitrogen assimilation are frequently ineffective. Genetic engineering using transcription factors (TFs) represents an alternative approach that may help overcome this difficulty, because TFs often regulate a set of genes involved in a certain metabolic pathway or biological event, simultaneously influencing a number of associated reactions. Indeed, this approach has been successfully used to improve environmental stress tolerance and responses to nutrients in plants. The first successful example of TF-based genetic engineering for increased NUE is the improvement of Arabidopsis growth under nitrogen-limited conditions, which was achieved using the maize TF gene Dof1. Although TF-based genetic engineering is a promising approach for generating crops suitable for cropping systems requiring reduced fertilizer input, few such attempts have thus far been reported. However, a number of TFs are potentially useful for this type of genetic engineering. In this chapter, we summarize the concept underlying TF-based genetic engineering of NUE and provide a list of TFs shown to be potentially useful for genetically modifying NUE in the model plant Arabidopsis and several crop species.


Nitrate Nitrogen uptake Nitrogen use efficiency Nitrogen utilization Transcription factor 



Glutamine oxoglutarate aminotransferase


Glutamine synthetase


Nitrite reductase


Nitrate reductase


Nitrate transporter


Nitrogen use efficiency


Nitrogen uptake efficiency


Nitrogen utilization efficiency


Phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase


Phosphate transporter


RNA interference


Transcription factor



This work was supported in part by JST CREST (no. JPMJCR15O5) and JSPS KAKENHI Scientific Research (nos. 18H03940, 26221102 and 18J01554). We apologize to the authors of the many publications that we were unable to cite due to space constraints.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Plant Functional BiotechnologyBiotechnology Research Center, The University of TokyoTokyoJapan

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