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Plant architecture is critical for enhancing the adaptability and productivity of crop plants. Mutants with an altered plant architecture allow researchers to elucidate the genetic network and the underlying mechanisms. In this study, we characterized a novel nal1 rice mutant with short height, small panicle, and narrow and thick deep green leaves that was identified from a cross between a rice cultivar and a weedy rice accession. Bulked segregant analysis coupled with genome re-sequencing and cosegregation analysis revealed that the overall mutant phenotype was caused by a 1395-bp deletion spanning over the last two exons including the transcriptional end site of the nal1 gene. This deletion resulted in chimeric transcripts involving nal1 and the adjacent gene, which were validated by a reference-guided assembly of transcripts followed by PCR amplification. A comparative transcriptome analysis of the mutant and the wild-type rice revealed 263 differentially expressed genes involved in cell division, cell expansion, photosynthesis, reproduction, and gibberellin (GA) and brassinosteroids (BR) signaling pathways, suggesting the important regulatory role of nal1. Our study indicated that nal1 controls plant architecture through the regulation of genes involved in the photosynthetic apparatus, cell cycle, and GA and BR signaling pathways.

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