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Crop Biotech Update

Italian Scientists Search for Genes Involved in Carotenoid Synthesis in Wheat

February 8, 2017

Carotenoids play an important role in plant photosynthesis and photo-oxidative protection, and are the precursors of vitamin A. In wheat, carotenoids influence the color of the grain. Understanding the genetic basis of grain yellow pigments, and identifying associated markers can provide the basis for improving wheat quality.

Pasqualina Colasuonno of the University of Bari ‘Aldo Moro' in Italy used comparative genomics to identify 24 candidate genes involved in the synthesis and catabolism of carotenoids. The team also performed genome-wide association study based on genotyping a tetraploid wheat collection. This GWAS validated previously detected quantitative trait loci (QTLs) and also discovered new QTLs for grain color-related traits. Ten carotenoid genes were mapped in regions underlying pigment content QTLs, indicating possible functional relationships between the candidate genes and the trait.

The availability of linked, candidate gene-based markers can facilitate breeding of wheat cultivars with desirable levels of carotenoids. Identifying QTLs linked to carotenoid pigmentation can contribute to understanding genes underlying carotenoid accumulation in the wheat kernels.

For more on this study, read the article in BMC Genomics.