An increase in melatonin in transgenic rice causes pleiotropic phenotypes, including enhanced seedling growth, delayed flowering, and low grain yield

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No previous reports have described the effects of an increase in endogenous melatonin levels on plant yield and reproduction. Here, the phenotypes of melatonin-rich transgenic rice plants overexpressing sheep serotonin N-acetyltransferase were investigated under field conditions. Early seedling growth of melatonin-rich transgenic rice was greatly accelerated, with enhanced biomass relative to the wild type (WT). However, flowering was delayed by 1 wk in the transgenic lines compared with the WT. Grain yields of the melatonin-rich transgenic lines were reduced by 33% on average. Other phenotypes also varied among the transgenic lines. For example, the transgenic line S1 exhibited greater height and biomass than the WT, while the S10 transgenic line showed diminished height and an increase in panicle numbers per plant. The expression levels of Oryza sativa homeobox1 (OSH1) and TEOSINTE BRANCHED1 (TB1) genes, two key regulators of meristem initiation and maintenance, were not altered in the transgenic lines. These data demonstrate that an alteration of endogenous melatonin levels leads to pleiotropic effects such as height, biomass, panicle number, flowering time, and grain yield, indicating that melatonin behaves as a signaling molecule in plant growth and reproduction.

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