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Plant Physiol. 2013 Apr;161(4):1806-19. doi: 10.1104/pp.113.214262. Epub 2013 Feb 20.

Introgression of novel traits from a wild wheat relative improves drought adaptation in wheat.

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Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska 68583, USA.


Root architecture traits are an important component for improving water stress adaptation. However, selection for aboveground traits under favorable environments in modern cultivars may have led to an inadvertent loss of genes and novel alleles beneficial for adapting to environments with limited water. In this study, we elucidate the physiological and molecular consequences of introgressing an alien chromosome segment (7DL) from a wild wheat relative species (Agropyron elongatum) into cultivated wheat (Triticum aestivum). The wheat translocation line had improved water stress adaptation and higher root and shoot biomass compared with the control genotypes, which showed significant drops in root and shoot biomass during stress. Enhanced access to water due to higher root biomass enabled the translocation line to maintain more favorable gas-exchange and carbon assimilation levels relative to the wild-type wheat genotypes during water stress. Transcriptome analysis identified candidate genes associated with root development. Two of these candidate genes mapped to the site of translocation on chromosome 7DL based on single-feature polymorphism analysis. A brassinosteroid signaling pathway was predicted to be involved in the novel root responses observed in the A. elongatum translocation line, based on the coexpression-based gene network generated by seeding the network with the candidate genes. We present an effective and highly integrated approach that combines root phenotyping, whole-plant physiology, and functional genomics to discover novel root traits and the underlying genes from a wild related species to improve drought adaptation in cultivated wheat.

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