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J Exp Bot. 2012 Oct;63(17):6253-66. doi: 10.1093/jxb/ers281. Epub 2012 Oct 17.

Analysis of grain characters in temperate grasses reveals distinctive patterns of endosperm organization associated with grain shape.

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Biology Department, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK.


Members of the core pooids represent the most important crops in temperate zones including wheat, barley, and oats. Their importance as crops is largely due to the grain, particularly the storage capabilities of the endosperm. In this study, a comprehensive survey of grain morphology and endosperm organization in representatives of wild and cultivated species throughout the core pooids was performed. As sister to the core pooid tribes Poeae, Aveneae, Triticeae, and Bromeae within the Pooideae subfamily, Brachypodium provides a taxonomically relevant reference point. Using macroscopic, histological, and molecular analyses distinct patterns of grain tissue organization in these species, focusing on the peripheral and modified aleurone, are described. The results indicate that aleurone organization is correlated with conventional grain quality characters such as grain shape and starch content. In addition to morphological and organizational variation, expression patterns of candidate gene markers underpinning this variation were examined. Features commonly associated with grains are largely defined by analyses on lineages within the Triticeae and knowledge of grain structure may be skewed as a result of the focus on wheat and barley. Specifically, the data suggest that the modified aleurone is largely restricted to species in the Triticeae tribe.

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