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A Genetic Framework for Grain Size and Shape Variation in Wheat

Gegas, Vasilis C., Nazari, Aida, Griffiths, Simon, Simmonds, James, Fish, Lesley, Orford, Simon, Sayers, Liz, Doonan, John H., Snape, John W.
The plant cell 2010 v.22 no.4 pp. 1046-1056
Triticum aestivum, domestication, genes, germplasm, models, phenotypic variation, quantitative analysis, quantitative trait loci, society, wheat
Grain morphology in wheat (Triticum aestivum) has been selected and manipulated even in very early agrarian societies and remains a major breeding target. We undertook a large-scale quantitative analysis to determine the genetic basis of the phenotypic diversity in wheat grain morphology. A high-throughput method was used to capture grain size and shape variation in multiple mapping populations, elite varieties, and a broad collection of ancestral wheat species. This analysis reveals that grain size and shape are largely independent traits in both primitive wheat and in modern varieties. This phenotypic structure was retained across the mapping populations studied, suggesting that these traits are under the control of a limited number of discrete genetic components. We identified the underlying genes as quantitative trait loci that are distinct for grain size and shape and are largely shared between the different mapping populations. Moreover, our results show a significant reduction of phenotypic variation in grain shape in the modern germplasm pool compared with the ancestral wheat species, probably as a result of a relatively recent bottleneck. Therefore, this study provides the genetic underpinnings of an emerging phenotypic model where wheat domestication has transformed a long thin primitive grain to a wider and shorter modern grain.