Using key gene-regulated molecular pathways to increase wheat yields

A study from the University of Adelaide has revealed that the molecular pathways regulated by a gene traditionally used to control the flowering behavior of wheat can be altered to achieve greater yields.

The gene is called Photoperiod-1 (PDP-1) and is regularly used by breeders to ensure that wheat crops flower and set grain earlier in the season, avoiding harsh summer conditions. However, there are known disadvantages.

While this variation benefits wheat productivity by aligning pollination and grain development with more favorable environmental conditions, it also penalizes yield by reducing the number of grain-bearing strawberries and spikes that form on the wheat inflorescence.

Dr. Scott Boden, a prospective fellow in the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine at the University of Adelaide

By examining genes whose expression is affected by PDP-1Dr Boden’s research team discovered two transcription factors that can be modified to influence the number and arrangement of grain-bearing spikelets that form in the wheat ear, as well as the timing of ear emergence.

“Deletion of a transcription factor, called ALOG1, increases branching in both wheat and barley, which normally form unbranched inflorescences, and suggests that this gene may be a key regulator of unbranched spikes in the Triticeae crop family, ” says Dr. Boden.

“The knowledge gained will inform breeders about the targets of the genes PDP-1for which we can use genetic diversity to design genotypes that can perform better.”

Dr Boden’s research team is now taking its work further with field trials at the University’s research end to test the performance of the genetically modified lines under field conditions.

Alas, German researchers discovered a similar effect for ALOG1 transcription factors in barley, which provides exciting data on the evolution of unbranched inflorescences of wheat and barley, compared to those of rice and maize that show more complex patterns. processed branching.

Australia is the world’s largest wheat exporter and produced 36,237,477 tonnes of the crop in 2022 – the country’s largest annual crop on record.

“Wheat contributes 20 percent of calories and protein to the human diet, and scientists and breeders must find ways to increase wheat yields by 60-70 percent by 2050 to maintain food security for a growing global population, ” say. Dr Boden.

“Studies like ours are particularly important because they provide a list of gene targets that can be used with new technologies, such as transformation and gene editing, to generate new diversity that can help improve crop productivity.

“We anticipate that our research will lead to further discoveries of genes that control tiller and flower development in wheat, and in doing so, will benefit the development of strategies for improving the yield potential of wheat.”

This research was published in Current Biology.


Journal reference:

Gauley, A., et al. (2024). Photoperiod-1 regulates the wheat inflorescence transcriptome to influence spikelet architecture and flowering time. Current Biology.

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