Biotech Updates

NIAB's Detection of Barley Pigment Genes, Step Towards Improving Yield and Disease Resistance

December 10, 2010

Researchers at the Cambridge-based National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) have successfully identified stretches of barley genomic DNA which are associated with observed variation in the barley characters through a statistical and molecular technique called "association mapping".

"Barley does not yet have a complete genome sequence available, but by combining association mapping with comparative analysis of gene content in related plant species, we've been able to focus in on the likely genetic variant that determines whether barley can produce anthocyanin," says NIAB plant scientist Dr. James Cockram. It was apparent that the absence of the purple pigment or anthocyanin in the plant could be controlled by a natural mutation within a gene thought to regulate the pigment's biosynthetic pathway.

The research team which also includes the Scottish Crop Research Institute and the University of Birmingham will be using association mapping in tackling complex traits for the development of useful varieties for the farmers in the future. Preliminary experiments have been conducted by wheat scientists at the NIAB and the John Innes Centre (UK) to locate genes for resistance to yellow rust, one of most important diseases constraining global wheat yields.

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