Designing cereal seeds for nutrition and health

Lead Research Organisation: Rothamsted Research
Department Name: Unlisted


The project will deliver lines of wheat with increased benefits for human health, focusing on two important traits: dietary fibre and mineral micronutrients.

Dietary Fibre:
The major dietary fibre components in wholegrain wheat and white flour are cell wall polysaccharides, arabinoxylan (AX) and ß-glucan. The objectives of the research in this area are to:
1. Determine the extent of genetic variation and genetic control of the content and composition in wheat to identify sources of variation for exploitation in breeding
2. Produce wheat lines with defined differences in endosperm cell wall composition, by identifying key synthetic genes and, using transgenesis or mutagenesis, modify their expression. We will then compare the location of these genes with QTLs for dietary fibre.
3. Characterise these transgenic wheat lines to determine the properties for specific end uses: human health, livestock feed and biofuels/distilling
4. Exploit information gained from manipulation of wheat endosperm cell walls to build a model of genes responsible for synthesis and feruloylation of xylan in grasses.

Mineral micronutrients:
Studies on mineral micronutrients will focus on increasing the contents of bioavailable iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) in wheat. The objectives are to:
1. Exploit natural genetic variation in Fe and Zn concentrations and determine the chemical speciation in wheat grain.
2. Determine QTLs associated with Fe/Zn concentrations using double haploid populations grown in different seasons/locations with different levels of N.
3. Enhance Fe/Zn concentrations and/or bioavailability in wheat endosperm by transformation with candidate genes involved in their transport to and deposition in the grain.
4. Determine Fe/Zn chemical species and bioavailability in transgenic wheat.


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Anders N (2012) Glycosyl transferases in family 61 mediate arabinofuranosyl transfer onto xylan in grasses. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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Becraft, Philip W. (2013) Seed Genomics

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Brouns F (2013) Does wheat make us fat and sick? in Journal of Cereal Science

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Delcour, Jan; Poutanen, Kaisa (2013) Fibre-Rich and Wholegrain Foods: Improving Quality

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Eagling T (2014) Distribution and speciation of iron and zinc in grain of two wheat genotypes. in Journal of agricultural and food chemistry

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Green H (2016) Planting seeds for the future of food. in Journal of the science of food and agriculture

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He J (2013) Spatial patterns of gluten protein and polymer distribution in wheat grain. in Journal of agricultural and food chemistry

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K. Hoffman-Sommergruber (Author) (2012) High-throughput NMR authentication of food allergens in Proceedings of 28th Symposium of the Collegium Internationale Allergologicum - Translational Science: From Basic to Clinical Immunology and Allergy

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Lafiandra D (2014) Improving cereal grain carbohydrates for diet and health. in Journal of cereal science

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Lovegrove A (2017) Role of polysaccharides in food, digestion, and health. in Critical reviews in food science and nutrition

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Meharg AA (2013) Variation in rice cadmium related to human exposure. in Environmental science & technology

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Mitchell RA (2013) Lunasin in cereal seeds: What is the origin? in Journal of cereal science

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Mäkelä MJ (2014) Wheat allergy in children - new tools for diagnostics. in Clinical and experimental allergy : journal of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology

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Neal AL (2013) Iron and zinc complexation in wild-type and ferritin-expressing wheat grain: implications for mineral transport into developing grain. in Journal of biological inorganic chemistry : JBIC : a publication of the Society of Biological Inorganic Chemistry

Description Identified genetic sources of high dietary fibre wheat for improved human health
Identified genes controlling fibre synthesis in wheat and characterised them by RNAi knock out in transgenic plants
Determined new information of mechanism of action of fibre in reducing the rate of glucose release during digestion of bread
Exploitation Route With breeders and food processors, supported by TSB and BBSRC
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Healthcare