Preharvest sprouting (PHS) due to lack of seed dormancy seriously threatens crop production worldwide. As a complex quantitative trait, breeding of crop cultivars with suitable seed dormancy is hindered by limited useful regulatory genes. Here by repeatable phenotypic characterization of fixed recombinant individuals, we report a quantitative genetic locus, Seed Dormancy 6 (SD6), from aus-type rice, encoding a basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor, which underlies the natural variation of seed dormancy. SD6 and another bHLH factor inducer of C-repeat binding factors expression 2 (ICE2) function antagonistically in controlling seed dormancy by directly regulating the ABA catabolism gene ABA8OX3, and indirectly regulating the ABA biosynthesis gene NCED2 via OsbHLH048, in a temperature-dependent manner. The weak-dormancy allele of SD6 is common in cultivated rice but undergoes negative selection in wild rice. Notably, by genome editing SD6 and its wheat homologs, we demonstrated that SD6 is a useful breeding target for alleviating PHS in cereals under field conditions.
© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature America, Inc.