Developing nutrient-enriched cereal grains with large embryos

Increasing relative embryo size has the potential to significantly enhance grain quality.

Embryo size is a novel target for improving cereal grain quality for feed and food. Although the embryo accounts for only a small proportion of the grain weight, it is rich in nutrients, so increasing relative embryo size has the potential to significantly enhance grain quality.

This BBSRC-funded project, headed by Dr Kay Trafford (NIAB), includes a study on how relative embryo size has changed during the course of domestication as is known to have occurred in durum wheat. Comparing collections of wild and domesticated grains, and populations derived from crosses between these, will allow the identification of when and how relative embryo size has changed during the course of domestication, and the genomic regions associated with this change.

Another focus is work centred on the recently discovered transcription factor, PROLAMIN-BINDING FACTOR (PBF) that regulates embryo size and will investigate the involvement of PBF in both endosperm and embryo, the associated genetic and biochemical pathways and identify and manipulate its embryo-specific target genes.

Mutations in this and other genes known to be involved in embryo size regulation in maize and rice will be pyramided in wheat as validation and application of the work initially undertaken in barley.

Project leader: Dr Kay Trafford, NIAB.

Hutton contacts: Dr Joanne Russell and Dr Luke Ramsay.

Funding: BBSRC