Scientists find genes in wild wheat relatives

Scientists find genes in wild wheat relatives

K-State scientists complete first study of tertiary gene pool; call it breakthrough in exploring wheat wild relatives

The wild, distant relatives of today's varieties of bread wheat, referred to as the tertiary gene pool, offer some of the best hope for scientists hoping to find new traits for future crop improvement.

Kansas State University wheat scientists have completed the first study of a chromosome in a tertiary gene pool. Their study, "Exploring the tertiary gene pool of bread wheat: sequence assembly and analysis of chromosome 5M of Aegilops geniculata," was published Sept. 27 in The Plant Journal. 

GENE SEARCH: Scientists at Kansas State University complete initial study of wild relatives of current wheat varieities in hopes of finding genetic material for future crop improvement.

"What we did is develop a strategy that can be used as a model to explore genomic resources for gene mining from distant wild relatives of wheat," said Vijay Tiwari, research associate in the plant pathology department and the study's lead author.

Tiwari said having a complete understanding of the tertiary gene makeup helps wheat breeders develop new varieties that are resistant to disease and more tolerant of heat and drought. 

"Basically we've worked a lot on the primary gene pool of wheat and we have expanded our primary gene pool a lot," Tiwari said. "But we are limited on what we can do because of a lack of genomic resources for distant wild relatives." 

In the study, researchers used a flow sorter to dissect a single chromosome from the larger genome in a wild wheat relative. Tiwari said the scientists then studied the gene composition and developed genomic resources and markers in the wild relative for gene mining and transfer to wheat. 

"It's interesting to see how similar wild relatives are to wheat in terms of gene content and gene composition," Tiwari said. 

The chromosome they studied — known as 5M from a wheat progenitor Aegilops geniculate — has many important agronomic genes, Tiwari said. Three in particular will be useful in helping to breed for resistance to wheat rust, a pathogen that has devastated wheat since Roman times. 

The work was conducted in Kansas State University's Wheat Genetics Resource Center, led by Bikram Gill, university distinguished professor of plant pathology. The university's research team included 11 scientists who worked cooperatively with scientists in the Czech Republic and Saudi Arabia.

Source: Kansas State University News Service

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