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Nat Biotechnol. 2012 Mar 11;30(4):360-4. doi: 10.1038/nbt.2120.

Wheat grain yield on saline soils is improved by an ancestral Na⁺ transporter gene.

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CSIRO Plant Industry, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia.


The ability of wheat to maintain a low sodium concentration ([Na(+)]) in leaves correlates with improved growth under saline conditions. This trait, termed Na(+) exclusion, contributes to the greater salt tolerance of bread wheat relative to durum wheat. To improve the salt tolerance of durum wheat, we explored natural diversity in shoot Na(+) exclusion within ancestral wheat germplasm. Previously, we showed that crossing of Nax2, a gene locus in the wheat relative Triticum monococcum into a commercial durum wheat (Triticum turgidum ssp. durum var. Tamaroi) reduced its leaf [Na(+)] (ref. 5). Here we show that a gene in the Nax2 locus, TmHKT1;5-A, encodes a Na(+)-selective transporter located on the plasma membrane of root cells surrounding xylem vessels, which is therefore ideally localized to withdraw Na(+) from the xylem and reduce transport of Na(+) to leaves. Field trials on saline soils demonstrate that the presence of TmHKT1;5-A significantly reduces leaf [Na(+)] and increases durum wheat grain yield by 25% compared to near-isogenic lines without the Nax2 locus.

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