Nav: Home

Epic genetic: the hidden story of wheat

August 22, 2018

Globally, wheat, together with maize and rice, provides the most human nutrition. It can thrive in a whole range of different environments, even within a similar geographical region.

Exploring one hundred different wheat lines worldwide, the research team led by the Earlham Institute in collaboration with Helmholtz Zentrum München, University of Liverpool and the John Innes Centre have revealed a trove of epigenetic variation that was previously unknown to current genotyping methods.

The new findings link crop evolution and phenotypic change to agricultural conditions - allowing us to protect future yields with a climate resistant armour through new breeding methods - contributing to the success of this global crop as well as significant implications for the wheat community.

With DNA, it's not always about the sequence of As, Ts, Gs and Cs. Although they contain the vital code that lets us make proteins, there are many other aspects to a genome than just the gene sequences.

One aspect is epigenetics - changes in how genes are expressed. Extra to the DNA sequence, the individual letters might come attached with a 'methyl group'. Methylation is very important because it means that genes can be turned off, or the way DNA is stored can change, changing the way genetic information is read.

This is important because these changes can happen due to the environment, but are still inherited. This means, in certain conditions, if an epigenetic change happens that is beneficial, this can be passed on to the next generation.

The research team found geographical patterns in these epigenetic changes between the 100 landraces of wheat studied, which suggests that these changes have arisen due to environmental conditions in those local areas.

This is exciting because it means that breeders have a hidden tool up their wheat sleeve. Currently, it's all about SNPs - single changes in a DNA sequence that have an effect on disease or environmental resistance, for example. Now, even if the DNA sequence is the same, there might be subtle changes at the epigenetic level that we can use to improve how plants respond to local conditions.

Essentially, there are more tools to enable farmers to keep on growing the best possible crop for their local environment.

Group Leader Professor Anthony Hall at the Earlham institute, says: "We are very proud of our groundbreaking piece of fundamental work indicating that DNA methylation offers a broad and stable source of variation for wheat breeders.

"Our next step is to translate this fundamental work on DNA methylation to a technology that is transformative, relevant and accessible to wheat breeders for the development of new cultivars."

Dr Laura-Jayne Gardiner, Senior Postdoctoral Scientist, added: "What is really neat is, even though we are working with a hugely complex genome which is five times the size of the human genome, we're able to translate this discovery into a tool for breeders in likely to be just a few years. As a scientist, it's incredibly exciting that your research could have such an immediate impact."
-end-
Funded by ERA-CAPS, the ERA-Net for Coordinating Action in Plant Sciences, BBSRC, DFG and NSF, this research builds on Earlham Institute's previous epigenetic work on Chinese Spring wheat (Clavijo et al., Genome Research, 2017) using the advances in wheat genomic resources, as well as in preparation for the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium.

Earlham Institute

Related Dna Articles:

Penn State DNA ladders: Inexpensive molecular rulers for DNA research
New license-free tools will allow researchers to estimate the size of DNA fragments for a fraction of the cost of currently available methods.
It is easier for a DNA knot...
How can long DNA filaments, which have convoluted and highly knotted structure, manage to pass through the tiny pores of biological systems?
How do metals interact with DNA?
Since a couple of decades, metal-containing drugs have been successfully used to fight against certain types of cancer.
Electrons use DNA like a wire for signaling DNA replication
A Caltech-led study has shown that the electrical wire-like behavior of DNA is involved in the molecule's replication.
Switched-on DNA
DNA, the stuff of life, may very well also pack quite the jolt for engineers trying to advance the development of tiny, low-cost electronic devices.
Researchers are first to see DNA 'blink'
Northwestern University biomedical engineers have developed imaging technology that is the first to see DNA 'blink,' or fluoresce.
Finding our way around DNA
A Salk team developed a tool that maps functional areas of the genome to better understand disease.
A 'strand' of DNA as never before
In a carefully designed polymer, researchers at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences have imprinted a sequence of a single strand of DNA.
Doubling down on DNA
The African clawed frog X. laevis genome contains two full sets of chromosomes from two extinct ancestors.
'Poring over' DNA
Church's team at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the Harvard Medical School developed a new electronic DNA sequencing platform based on biologically engineered nanopores that could help overcome present limitations.

Related Dna Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Bias And Perception
How does bias distort our thinking, our listening, our beliefs... and even our search results? How can we fight it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the unconscious biases that shape us. Guests include writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, climatologist J. Marshall Shepherd, journalist Andreas Ekström, and experimental psychologist Tony Salvador.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#513 Dinosaur Tails
This week: dinosaurs! We're discussing dinosaur tails, bipedalism, paleontology public outreach, dinosaur MOOCs, and other neat dinosaur related things with Dr. Scott Persons from the University of Alberta, who is also the author of the book "Dinosaurs of the Alberta Badlands".