INvestigating TRiticeae EPIgenomes for Domestication

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


The production of new hybrids is a centrally important way of improving crops as they exhibit novel traits directly after hybrid formation, which are not found in progenitor parents. Growing evidence points to possible epigenetic origins for these emergent phenotypes. The scale and heritability of epigenetic modifications therefore needs to be measured, related to potential changes in gene and chromosome function (for example recombination), and then taken into account in breeding as a source of variation in breeding. The project brings together world- leading expertise in wheat genomics, bioinformatics and genome analysis to work in linked research projects, described below. The Consortium is led by the University of Liverpool together with the Helmholz Zentrum Munich, the John Innes Centre and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The project is closely linked to work at NIAB on the production of new synthetic wheat lines. Our specific objectives are:
1. Define the epigenome of the genome reference Chinese Spring 42, correlate epigenetic modifications to changes in gene expression and chromosome dynamics such as recombination, and establish a community standard for future work;
2. Survey the epigenomes of 8 elite wheat varieties to map variation in the epigenomes, identify epi-alleles and make markers to a subset of these, and assess the influence of breeding on the epigenome and its contribution to key traits;
3. Define epigenome variation in two tetraploid (AABB) and four diploid (DD) progenitors of bread wheat that will be used to make new hybrids;
4. Establish how epigenetic marks are placed down in newly created synthetic hybrid wheat (SHW), how these are stabilised in subsequent generations, and how this affects gene structure and expression;
5. Determine if environmental conditions such as elevated temperatures can influence patterns of epigenetic modifications during the stabilization of newly formed hybrids.


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