Posts Tagged ‘wheat genome’

Super CRISPR Wheat

March 10th, 2018

Wheat is the second most important food crop in the developing world. It’s not just in pasta, either. Wheat is found in more food than you can imagine (1). Like corn and soy, we need it, and lots of it.

But, contrary to what you may think, GMO wheat is not sold or used. In fact, although seed companies have produced it, GMO wheat is not grown commercially for a myriad of different reasons, most of which are for another story on another day.

One challenge to improving wheat genetically has been due to the complex genetic mechanisms that go on with wheat DNA. A wheat cell has six copies of its seven chromosomes (42 chromosomes total). See the depiction below.

Not only in the amount of DNA daunting, but the multiple copies of one gene make genetic manipulation very tricky. If one gene is mutated, for example, to improve a trait in the wheat, any of the other copies of that gene can undo the mutation through the process of recombination (swapping DNA from one chromosome to another.)

CRISPR-Cas9, the DNA editing technology that is changing the face of genetic engineering, can alleviate this issue. How? Because it has what is called multiplex genome editing capacity. This means that many genes can be altered simultaneously and beneficial modifications in multiple genes can be made at the same time.

In a new study, mutations in all three copies of the gene TaGW2, resulted in an increase in thousand grain weight, grain area, grain width, and grain length. This can be seen in the figure below. The blue boxes represent the mutant wheat and the yellow boxes represent the non-mutated wheat. In all four categories of measurement, the mutant wheat are superior. The plots show (A) grain area, (B) grain width, (C) grain length, and (D) thousand grain weight (TGW) of gw2 knockout (aabbdd) and wild-type plants (AABBDD).

The group went on to show that these mutations are heritable and were edited by CRISPR- Cas9 in the future generations of wheat by crossing the wheat plants with the gene targeting materials with wheat lines expressing the CRISPR-Cas9 materials.

This is an exciting demonstration of gene editing activity in wheat that is passed down from one generation to the next and may provide a useful tool for improving wheat in the future.

This paper is published in the first volume, first issue of the brand new The CRISPR Journal.

Source: Wei Wang, Transgenerational CRISPR-Cas9 Activity Facilitates Multiplex Gene Editing in Allopolyploid Wheat The CRISPR Journal Volume 1, Number 1, 2018 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. DOI: 10.1089/crispr.2017.0010


(1) Some unexpected places to find wheat are:

  • Glucose syrup
  • Soy sauce
  • Starch (gelatinized starch, modified starch, modified food starch, vegetable starch)
  • Ale
  • Asian dishes can feature wheat flour flavored and shaped to look like beef, pork and shrimp.
  • Baked goods
  • Baking mixes
  • Batter-fried foods
  • Beer
  • Breaded foods
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Candy
  • Country-style wreaths are often decorated with wheat products
  • Crackers
  • Hot dogs
  • Imitation crab meat
  • Ice cream
  • Marinara sauce
  • Play dough
  • Potato chips
  • Processed meats
  • Rice cakes
  • Salad dressings
  • Sauces
  • Soups
  • Turkey patties




Milling industry, Research , ,

Wild wheat genome sequencing provides ‘time tunnel’ capable of boosting future food production and safety

July 8th, 2017
Comments Off on Wild wheat genome sequencing provides ‘time tunnel’ capable of boosting future food production and safety

A global team of researchers has published the first-ever Wild Emmer wheat genome sequence in Science magazine. Wild Emmer wheat is the original form of nearly all the domesticated wheat in the world, including durum (pasta) and bread wheat. Wild emmer is too low-yielding to be of use to farmers today, but it contains many attractive characteristics that are being used by plant breeders to improve wheat.

The study was led by Dr. Assaf Distelfeld of Tel Aviv University’s School of Plant Sciences and Food Security and Institute for Cereal Crops Improvement, in collaboration with several dozen scientists from institutions around the world and an Israel-based company – NRGene, which developed the bioinformatics technology that accelerated the research.

“This research is a synergistic partnership among public and private entities,” said Dr. Daniel Chamovitz, Dean of Tel Aviv University’s George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, who was also involved in the research. “Ultimately, this research will have a significant impact on global food safety and security.”

“Our ability to generate the Wild Emmer wheat genome sequence so rapidly is a huge step forward in genomic research,” said Dr. Curtis Pozniak from the University of Saskatchewan, a project team member and Chair of the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture Strategic Research Program. “Wheat accounts for almost 20% of the calories humans consume worldwide, so a strong focus on improving the yield and quality of wheat is essential for our future food supply.”

“From a biological and historical viewpoint, we have created a ‘time tunnel’ we can use to examine wheat from before the origins of agriculture,” said Dr. Distelfeld. “Our comparison to modern wheat has enabled us to identify the genes involved in domestication – the transition from wheat grown in the wild to modern day varieties. While the seeds of wild wheat readily fall off the plant and scatter, a change in two genes meant that in domesticated wheat, the seeds remained attached to the stalk; it is this trait that enabled humans to harvest wheat.”

“This new resource allowed us to identify a number of other genes controlling main traits that were selected by early humans during wheat domestication and that served as foundation for developing modern wheat cultivars,” said Dr. Eduard Akhunov of Kansas State University. “These genes provide an invaluable resource for empowering future breeding efforts. Wild Emmer is known as a source of novel variation that can help to improve the nutritional quality of grain as well as tolerance to diseases and water-limiting conditions.”

“New genomic tools are already being implemented to identify novel genes for wheat production improvement under changing environment,” explains Dr. Zvi Peleg of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. “While many modern wheat cultivars are susceptible to water stress, Wild Emmer has undergone a long evolutionary history under the drought-prone Mediterranean climate. Thus, utilization of the wild genes in wheat breeding programs promotes producing more yield for less water.” “The wheat genome is much more complex than most of the other crops and has agenome four times the size of a human genome.” said Dr. Gil Ronen, NRGene’s CEO. “Still, the computational technology we developed has allowed us to quickly assemble the very large and complex genome found in Wild Emmer’s 14 chromosomes to a standard never achieved before in genomic studies.”

For the first time, the sequences of the 14 chromosomes of Wild Emmer wheat are collapsed into a refined order, thanks to additional technology that utilizes DNA and protein links. “It was originally tested in humans and recently demonstrated in barley, both of which have smaller genomes than Wild Emmer wheat,” says Dr. Nils Stein, the Head of Genomics of Genetic Resources at Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research in Germany. “These innovative technologies have changed the game in assembling the large cereal genomes.”

“This sequencing approach used for Wild Emmer wheat is unprecedented and has paved the way to sequence durum wheat (the domesticated form of Wild Emmer). Now we can better understand how humanity transformed this wild plant into a modern, high-yielding and high-quality crop,” said Dr. Luigi Cattivelli, Head of the CREA Research Centre for Genomics and Bioinformatics (Italy) and coordinator of the International Durum Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium. “This Wild Emmer wheat sequencing and approach is an invaluable contribution to the entire wheat community to improve and better understand nutritional mechanisms,” said Dr. Hikmet Budak, Montana Plant Science Endowed Chair at Montana State University.

“We now have the tools to study crops directly and to make and apply our discoveries more efficiently than ever before,” concluded Dr. Distelfeld.

More information: R. Avni el al., “Wild emmer genome architecture and diversity elucidate wheat evolution and domestication,” Science (2017). … 1126/science.aan0032



Milling industry, Research

Scientists make discovery that ‘shakes up’ foundations of wheat genome research

March 11th, 2017
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Australian researchers have made a discovery in bread wheat that promises to ‘shake the foundations’ of wheat gene research and open up big opportunities for wheat breeders across the world.

A team of researchers at the University of Western Australia have found 21,000 new genes across 16 common wheat varieties.

The researchers also found variations between wheat varieties that were not previously known.

The findings are anticipated to have an immediate relevance to wheat breeders in Australia.

Professor of plant biology David Edwards said knowing there was a variation between genes could help in creating disease resistant varieties.

“A plant will be resistant because it has a resistance gene, and the susceptible ones will have that gene missing,” he said.

“So we can start doing associations and we find some varieties which are resistant to disease, and we can go through and say well these are resistant because we have these genes.

“And then we can use that information for breeding better varieties.”

International interest

Professor Edwards said the university worked closely with major breeding companies and had already had interest in the research findings.

“This is defiantly international- most of the work happens internationally and most of my collaborators are international.

Prof Edwards said the discovery of the new genes and gene variations came about because, previously, researchers were basing their studies off a defunct variety – Chinese spring.

“It was grown back in the 1950s and it’s not particularly useful, no-one has used it in breeding,” he said.

“But it was used because it was quite nice to work with.

“But looking back people didn’t have the knowledge that there was so much presence/absence variation and looking back it probably wasn’t a good idea.”

He said no-one had looked at the sequence of the 16 common wheat varieties previously because of the cost, but they were able to after securing funding from the Federal Government.

He said international research had been based on the Chinese spring wheat variety models for over a decade and this finding would make genomics far more applicable.

The research has been published in The Plant Journal.




Milling industry, Research

India aims full genome sequencing of wheat in 3 years

August 7th, 2015
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India has set a three-year target to sequence the wheat genome and procure better quality variety, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has said.

A French group that started sequencing before 2005 has been successful in doing it for one chromosome, it said.

“All other partners of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium including India target to complete the sequencing in the next three years,” ICAR said in its reply to the RTI application by Gopal Prasad.

It said that uptil now sequencing of the whole wheat genome has been partially successful.

“The genome sequenced so far is blueprint only and not the complete genome,” it said.

Asked if the wheat variety that can withstand 39 degrees Celsius temperature has been identified, the ICAR said, “These are wild species which can tolerate high temperatures. These species have been collected by various explorers in the Middle East since 1960s.”

Noting that global warming affects wheat production, ICAR said, “Climate change leads to rise in global mean temperature resulting in droughts, flooding, and altered land behaviour. Besides, high temperature during seed-sowing periods adversely affects the production.”

ICAR said the part of genomes responsible for high growth of seeds and lesser water consumption has been identified by studying a hybrid of the drought-resistant C-306 and a green revolution variety W-711.

According to the ICAR, the wheat reproduction pace could be almost doubled once the genome sequencing is identified.

By the identifying the DNAs regulating various traits a new variety of wheat can be developed in 5-7 years as compared to 10-15 years, it said.

“We can work on production by introducing some new traits like draught-resistance, better quality and yield,” it said.

The Council said that Rs 35 crore was sanctioned by the department of science and technology for genome sequencing.

“Between 2011-15, National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology spent Rs 8.71 crore whereas Punjab Agricultural University and UDSC spent Rs 18.33 crore and Rs 7.51 crore respectively,” it said.

Apart from wheat works have also been done on paddy and tomato. This has resulted into the arrival of the new variety of paddy seeds.



Milling industry, Technology ,