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The vegetative nitrogen response of sorghum lines containing different alleles for nitrate reductase and glutamate synthase

Diatloff, Eugene, Mace, Emma S., Jordan, David R., Filleur, Sophie, Tai, Shuaishuai, Schmidt, Susanne, Godwin, Ian D.
Molecular breeding 2017 v.37 no.11 pp. 138
Sorghum bicolor, alleles, biomass, breeding, chromosome mapping, crops, cultivars, environmental sustainability, food security, gene expression, genetic databases, genetic variation, genotype, grain sorghum, greenhouses, leaves, metabolism, nitrate reductase, nitrates, nitrogen, nitrogen content, parents, progeny, root growth, roots, shoots, starvation, stems, vegetative growth
Improving the nitrogen (N) responsiveness of crops is crucial for food security and environmental sustainability, and breeding N use efficient (NUE) crops has to exploit genetic variation for this complex trait. We used reverse genetics to examine allelic variation in two N metabolism genes. In silico analysis of the genomes of 44 genetically diverse sorghum genotypes identified a nitrate reductase and a glutamate synthase gene that were under balancing selection in improved sorghum cultivars. We hypothesised that these genes are a potential source of differences in NUE, and selected parents and progeny of nested association mapping populations with different allelic combinations for these genes. Allelic variation was sourced from African (Macia) and Indian (ICSV754) genotypes that had been incorporated into the Australian elite parent R931945-2-2. Nine genotypes were grown for 30 days in a glasshouse and supplied with continuous limiting or replete N, or replete N for 27 days followed by 3 days of N starvation. Biomass, total N and nitrate contents were quantified together with gene expressions in leaves, stems and roots. Limiting N supply universally resulted in less shoot and root growth, increased root weight ratio and reduced tissue nitrate and total N concentrations. None of the tested genotypes exceeded growth or NUE of the elite parent R931945-2-2 indicating that the allelic combinations did not confer an advantage during early vegetative growth. Thus, the next steps for ascertaining potential effects on NUE include growing plants to maturity. We conclude that reverse genetics that take advantage of rapidly expanding genomic databases enable a systematic approach for developing N-efficient crops.