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Plant Physiol. 2003 Dec;133(4):1959-67. Epub 2003 Nov 20.

Modeling grain nitrogen accumulation and protein composition to understand the sink/source regulations of nitrogen remobilization for wheat.

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  • 1Unité d'Agronomie, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, F-63039 Clermont-Ferrand cedex 2, France. pmatre@clermont.inra.fr


A functional explanation for the regulation of grain nitrogen (N) accumulation in cereal by environmental and genetic factors remains elusive. Here, new mechanistic hypotheses of grain N accumulation are proposed and tested for wheat (Triticum aestivum). First, we tested experimentally the hypothesis that grain N accumulation is mostly source regulated. Four contrasting cultivars, in terms of their grain N concentrations and yield potentials, were grown with non-limiting N supply. Grain number per ear was reduced by removing the top part of the ear at anthesis. Reduction in grain number gave a significant increase in N content per grain for all cultivars, showing that grain N accumulation was source regulated. However, on a per ear basis, cultivars with a high grain number fully compensated their N accumulation for reduced grain number at anthesis. Cultivars with a lower grain number did not compensate completely, and grain N per ear was decreased by 16%. Second, new mechanistic hypotheses of the origins of grain N source regulation and its response to environment were tested by simulation. The hypotheses were: (a). The regulation by N sources of grain N accumulation applies only for the storage proteins (i.e. gliadin and glutenin fractions); (b). accumulation of structural and metabolic proteins (i.e. albumin-globulin and amphiphilic fractions) is sink-regulated; and (c). N partitioning between gliadins and glutenins is constant during grain development and unmodified by growing conditions. Comparison of experimental and simulation results of the accumulation of grain protein fractions under wide ranges of N fertilization, temperatures, and irrigation supported these hypotheses.

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