Genetics of inflorescence architecture in wheat

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Contracts Office

Abstract

The objective of this project is to identify the genes and biological processes that regulate inflorescence architecture and development in wheat. Specifically, I will investigate an alternate form of floral structures in wheat, known as paired spikelets, which are characterized by the formation of two spikelets at a single node, rather than a typical single primary spikelet. This research will identify genes that coordinate two important yield components of inflorescence development: the differentiation and growth of spikelets and florets, and the rate of growth from the vegetative to reproductive transition until emergence of a mature inflorescence. The experimental approaches will combine use of advanced wheat genetic materials, including hexaploid and tetraploid wheat mutant TILLING populations, multi-parent mapping populations and a diverse panel of cultivated and wild wheat, with detailed phenotype and molecular investigation, including confocal microscopy and gene expression analysis of developing inflorescences. Following identification of genes that regulate inflorescence architecture and development, alleles that alter the function of these genes will be used to investigate the effect of modified inflorescence architecture and development on grain production. This research is timely and socially important as it will contribute to improved yields in wheat, which is vital given our need to develop traits that will increase productivity by 60-70% between 2010 and 2050 to sustainably feed the world’s growing population.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description This project has investigated the genes and biological processes that determine how many flowers form on a wheat ear (a.k.a. inflorescence), including the arrangement of flowers and the time required to form the flowers. Through this investigation, we have demonstrated that a gene called TEOSINTE BRANCHED1 (TB1), which is an orthologue of a gene that has contributed to domestication of maize, barley and rice, regulates inflorescence and plant development in a dosage dependent manner; an increased dosage of TB1 promotes more elaborate branching of the inflorescence, and restricts growth of axillary branches (tillers). The work has been continued to demonstrate a role for TB1 in controlling stem growth and plant height.

We have continued our investigation of genes that control inflorescence architecture in wheat by studying mutants and lines from a mapping population that display altered forms of floral structures (known as 'paired spikelets'). This analysis has identified a key genetic regulator that encodes a HD-ZIPIII transcription factor with a mutation in this gene found to promote formation of additional floral branches. We have also identified a highly significant locus on chromosome 2DS that regulates inflorescence architecture and key yield-related traits including spikelet development and floret fertility. We have narrowed the interval of this locus to a 1.6 Mb region, and we are continuing our analysis to identify the causal gene.

In addition to analysis of genes controlling inflorescence architecture, we have studied the genetic and environmental control of flowering in wheat. The analysis has shown that the central florigen (FLOWERING LOCUS T1) promotes early maturity through an unidentified role during late inflorescence development. We have characterised the interaction between this gene and the major photoperiod response regulator, Ppd-1.
Exploitation Route Commercial wheat breeding companies will be able to use the knowledge and tools (e.g. molecular markers, germplasm) developed from this research to optimize inflorescence architecture and development traits within modern cultivars. The knowledge gained will also benefit researchers from wheat and cereal research (including maize, rice and barley) who are investigating molecular pathways that control inflorescence development, including pathways related to inflorescence fertility and grain production.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

 
Description Our investigation of TEOSINTE BRANCHED1 as an inflorescence architecture gene in wheat has included identification of variant alleles that are used within UK wheat breeding programs. The molecular markers and genetic knowledge generated by this project are being used to investigate genotypes with optimized inflorescence architecture and development traits. Also, the method of speed breeding that was published with colleagues is being used extensively by breeding companies of diverse crops, both nationally and internationally.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Royal Society Research Fellows Enhancement Award
Amount £53,100 (GBP)
Funding ID RGF\EA\180303 
Organisation John Innes Centre 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2017 
End 11/2020
 
Description Transforming Food Production Seeding Award
Amount £22,050 (GBP)
Organisation John Innes Centre 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2018 
End 02/2019
 
Description URF and DHF 2016 Appointed Research Grant
Amount £44,388 (GBP)
Funding ID RG160515 
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 03/2019
 
Description University Research Fellowship
Amount £536,778 (GBP)
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 09/2021
 
Description Collaboration with KWS 
Organisation KWS UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution I interact with plant breeders and pre-breeding researchers at KWS-UK to investigate inflorescence architecture and development traits in bread wheat
Collaborator Contribution Allow me to phenotype their populations, perform genotype analysis and they share germplasm resources.
Impact Molecular markers for use in breeding programs and genetic knowledge to help optimize inflorescence development traits in bread wheat.
Start Year 2016
 
Description NIAB 
Organisation National Institute of Agronomy and Botany (NIAB)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborate with James Cockram, Greg Mellers and Beatrice Corsi to identify genetic regions that regulate inflorescence architecture in bread wheat using the NIAB UK winter wheat MAGIC population
Collaborator Contribution Provide access to their MAGIC population field trials and perform QTL analysis.
Impact None yet
Start Year 2016
 
Description Breeders Day at John Innes Centre 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Deliver presentation in the field about my research and the possible outcomes. Audience included breeders, fellow researchers, policy makers and politicians.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Cafe Science 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I participated in a Cafe Science event as a member of a panel, where I delivered a presentation about my research and the real-world applications of my research outcomes. The topic of the event was Genetic research in agriculture.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Conference presentation at PAG XXVI 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was invited to present a seminar in the Gene Introgression Workshop at PAG XXVI conference in San Diego.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Conference talk - FASEB Plant Development 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk at conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Invited seminar - CRAG, Barcelone 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited seminar at CRAG research institute in Barcelona, as part of an exchange of scientists between JIC, CRAG and MPIPZ (Germany)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Invited seminar - Early Careers Researcher conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presented an invited seminar and participated in discussion group for ECRs from JIC, MPIPZ and CRAG.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Invited seminar - MPIPZ Cologne 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was invited to deliver a seminar at the Max Planck Insititute for Plant Breeding in Cologne, where I talked about our recent advances in understanding genes that control inflorescence architecture in wheat. The visit sparked interesting discussions about genes controlling reproductive development in cereals and the networking was important for my career development.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited seminar - Milan 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I delivered an invited seminar on the genetic regulation of inflorescence architecture at the Department of Biosciences, University of Milan. The talk resulted in me being invited to be an external supervisor/mentor for a PhD student, and I have discussed project opportunities with Fabio Fornara and Lucio Conti.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited seminar - wheatCAP Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I was invited to be a keynote speaker at the wheatCAP symposium - Bridging the Gap: Using Functional Genomics to Unlock Yield Potential, held in San Diego. My talk influenced the views of multiple post-graduate students at the symposium, and I will be hosting a student at JIC who invited me to talk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.triticeaecap.org/whpss/
 
Description Invited seminar at IPK Gatersleben 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was invited to deliver a seminar at IPK Gatersleben in Germany, to discuss research outcomes and network to help develop new project ideas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Monogram UK meeting 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The funds were used to support the Monogram UK meeting, which is the premier conference for small grains cereal research in the UK. This conference was very successful, hosting the largest number of attendees for the meetings history (>200), which included multiple attendees from international institutes in Europe, USA, Mexico and Australia. It was attended by academics and industry, with all of the small grain cereal companies sending representatives to the event, which lead to a number of new engagements between academics and industry and continued discussions about on going collaborations. The event provided an excellent opportunity for postgraduate students to meet leading members of the community.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Participation in Breeder's Day 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Breeder's Day event at John Innes Centre, showcasing the potential applied outcomes from our research to industry and public breeders.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Radio Interview - BBC Radio 4 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I discussed the benefits of the Speed Breeding technique that has been developed at JIC in collaboration with researchers in Australia on a radio interview on BBC4 as part of the Gardener's Question Time programme. As the interview was on radio, it is difficult to gauge the impact; however, multiple people from outside the institute heard the interview and said that it has changed their understanding of the capabilities of plant breeding.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b0bgmxpv
 
Description Royal Norfolk Show 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I participated in the Royal Norfolk Show, but presenting for the John Innes Centre stall, where I discussed our work on improving wheat by optimizing inflorescence architecture and accelerating breeding using speed breeding. We spoke to multiple members of the general public about these specific topics, as well as general areas of plant science.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Science Cafe - Norwich Science Week 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I conducted a Science Cafe event with Prof. Enrico Coen, where we discussed the benefits of plant science and the excitement that comes with identifying genes that regulate key aspects of plant development, both in model and crop species. The event included presentations from myself and Prof. Coen, followed by a Q & A session.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Science Showcase Event at John Innes Centre 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact I participated in the John Innes Centre Science Showcase Event to inform industry and business about the research the is taking place at JIC, and to help develop new academic/industry links.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Seminar at International Wheat Genetics Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was invited to present a seminar at the International Wheat Genetics Symposium in Tulln, Austria, April 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Seminar at Sainsbury Laboratory Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I presented a seminar on the recent advances from our group investigating the genetic control of inflorescence architecture at the Sainsbury Laboratory Symposium on The coordination of development. The seminar increased the awareness of the scientific possibilities of wheat research to an audience that mainly included Arabidopsis researchers, and it was important for my career development because I was exposed to new ideas and knowledge, and I developed important contacts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Talk - Flower Development Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited seminar to present at a scientific conference on floral development in plants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Visit from Sygenta to discuss wheat research outcomes 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A visit from Syngenta team members including Yann Manes, Laurent Gervais, Duncan Warner, Olga Zhadenova and David Feuerhelm, top discuss some of the germplasm developed from IWYP projects and certainly anything that may be of value in a hybrid program.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018