Altered circadian rhythms regulate growth vigor in hybrids and allopolyploids

Life Sciences : Agriculture

Available for licensing


  • Zengjian Chen, Ph.D. , Molecular Biosciences
  • Eun-Deok Kim , Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology
  • Zhongfu Ni

Background/unmet need

The ability to manipulate plant gene expression allows for improved yield and quality in many crop and vegetable plants. In fact, genetic improvement and modification of plants may prove to be the answer to the global food crisis.

Although the ability to produce plant hybrids with superior characteristics was discovered over a century ago, scientists have yet to elucidate the underlying genetic mechanisms. Strikingly, researchers at UT Austin have found a specific genetic mechanism that is responsible for increased hybrid vigor and biomass. Market applications for this technology extend to improve crop yield and quality for a multitude of plants, including corn, rice, cotton, vegetables, and many other crops.

The importance and need for Dr. Chen’s technology has been validated by continued funding and his addressing a fundamental issue faced by industry leaders that came out of his knowledge as a researcher and consultant. Interested companies will benefit from the fact that Dr. Chen has received a combination of NSF and NIH funding totaling more than $5.5million through 2010.

Invention Description

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed an innovative method of manipulating gene expression in plant hybrids that allows for improved growth vigor, including higher plant content of starch and sugar. More specifically, this new method involves the manipulation of circadian-rhythm gene expression in order to create more robust crop yields. The inventors have demonstrated the link between circadian-rhythm genes and improved growth vigor in hybrids as well as non-hybrids through genetic modifications.

This novel method to regulate growth vigor will be broadly applicable to the production of superior plant hybrids such as corn and rice with high yield and quality. In addition, this invention is applicable to many other crops such as wheat, canola, cotton, potato, sugarcane, and fruits and vegetables such as strawberry, tomato, cabbage, and peppers.


    Increase the yield and quality of hybrids in corn, rice, vegetables, and many other plants.

Market potential/applications

The hybrid plant market has wide-ranging applications, including the production of food, livestock feed grains, seeds, and biofuels.

Development Stage

Proof of concept

IP Status

  • 1 U.S. patent application filed