Crop Biotech Update

International Research Team Develops Much Needed Genetic Resource in Improving Wheat Varieties

January 18, 2017

Researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and University of California, Davis in the United States, and the John Innes Centre in the United Kingdom have developed a much-needed genetic resource that will help accelerate the study of gene functions in wheat. The resource, a collection of bread and pasta wheat seeds with more than 10 million sequenced and carefully catalogued genetic mutations, is freely available to wheat breeders and researchers.

Wheat is an important crop, but a key genetic feature makes the plant difficult to study and manipulate. Wheat is polyploid, with multiple copies of its genome in every cell. Pasta wheat has two copies of every gene, and bread wheat has three.

Five years ago, the research team chemically induced random genetic mutation in thousands of wheat seeds. They developed an approach that lets them focus on the small fraction of the genome that encodes proteins. The team sequenced 400 billion bases of DNA and analyzed the 2,375 mutant lines that grew from the mutated seeds. Sequences of the 2,375 wheat lines are available to the public, and more than 3,000 seed stocks have been distributed to wheat researchers around the world.

For more details, read the news release at the HHMI website. The sequences are available at the Dubcovsky Lab at UC Davis, and at the Wheat TILLING website.