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sir legume plants require nitrogenase enzyme from the rhizobium bacteria so iam asking that is their any possibility of introducing the genes of that bacteria which are responsible for the production of nitrogenase enzyme through the genetic engineering methods i.,e through inserting the plasmid through techniqes

Submitted by: Kranthi Kumar


Expert response from Kristin Huizinga, Ph.D.

Chemistry Regulatory Affairs Manager, Bayer Crop Science

Wednesday, 11/02/2015 19:45

There are really two answers to your question.  If you want to know whether it is possible to transfer nitrogen-fixation genes to other bacteria, this can and has been done [citation] resulting in bacteria that are able to now fix nitrogen when they couldn’t before.  If instead the question is asking whether it’s possible to introduce the genes responsible for nitrogen fixation in a plant species that does not already form a symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, the answer is, not yet. Researchers have been trying to give non-legumes (like rice, wheat and corn) the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen for a long time, either directly or by giving them the ability to associate with nitrogen fixing bacteria, but have not yet been successful.  Direct nitrogen fixation by plants is quite difficult to achieve technically [citation] mainly because multiple genes are involved in nitrogen fixation and the primary enzyme, nitrogenase is very sensitive to oxygen.  Therefore, not only do the N-fixing genes need to be transferred, but there needs to be some structure (like nodules in a legume) that can sustain very low oxygen levels for nitrogen fixation to take place.  Having a plant modified to produce a new structure is quite difficult to achieve, but if someone makes it work, it would be a huge deal since nitrogen is a key limiting nutrient for growing crops. 


A previous GMO Answers response on getting non-legumes like cereals to fix nitrogen may also answer your question. That response highlighted that researchers at the John Innes Centre in the UK, with the support of the Gates Foundation, are investigating “the possibility of engineering cereals to associate with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and of delivering this technology through the seed.” 


Getting plants to fix their own nitrogen is just one of the many ways that the tools of genetic engineering can be used to make farming more sustainable and able to support a hungry and healthy planet.