Biotech Updates

Discovery of Gene Controlling Shape and Size of Wheat Spikelets Could Shape Future Crops

April 11, 2018

A new study conducted by a research team from John Innes Centre (JIC) has isolated a gene that controls the shape and size of wheat spikelets. The study focused on the genetics behind a specific mutant trait in bread wheat known as paired spikelets, where a wheat inflorescence is formed of two spikelets instead of the usual one. This trait, which bears resemblance to flower production in corn and rice, is a variation that could lead to increase in yield.

Using a range of techniques, researchers investigated wheat lines that display paired spikelets, derived from a mapping population called a multi-parent advanced generation intercross (MAGIC); a population of spring wheat created as a tool to study and identify the genetic origins of relevant traits. The study revealed a gene called TEOSINTE BRANCHED1 (TB1) regulates wheat inflorescence architecture, promoting paired spikelets through a mechanism which delays flowering and reduces the expression of genes that control the development of lateral branches called spikelets.

Analysis showed that alleles modifying the function of TB1 were present in a wide range of major modern wheat cultivars used by breeders in the United Kingdom and Europe; and that variant alleles for TB1 were present on two of the three wheat genomes of winter and spring wheat. Genetic analysis also showed that TB1 is linked to another gene that has been known for a long time: the so-called Green Revolution gene, Rht-1, which controls plant height. The study authors say that this information on TB1 gene is also an important contribution to possible floral architecture diversity in a number of other cereal crops including corn, barley, and rice.

For more details, visit the JIC News and Events.