Wheat sustains the world. The FAO has stated that wheat is one of the main crops in the world, both in terms of scope and production, and it is also one of the rich sources of vegetable protein and carbohydrates in the human diet.
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The search for genetic enhancement in wheat, resulting in varieties that are more impervious to the problems caused by certain pests or climate change, responds to the need to feed the people continuously.
Genetic improvement programs can take many years and involve studying the wheat’s genetic mechanisms to get a deeper insight into them, thus translating to more effective research in this area.
A team of researchers that included Professor Miguel Aguilar from the Department of Botany, Ecology and Plant Physiology at the University of Cordoba, together with José Garrido and Pilar Prieto, both scientists at the Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (abbreviated to IAS-CSIC in Spanish) was able to expand one’s knowledge of those processes.
The researchers have published the set of dependable reference genes in wheat meiosis.
Meiosis is the process of cell division that produces reproductive cells or gametes. Genetic recombination and chromosome association occur during meiosis. These are crucial processes for the fertility of a plant.
Normalizing genes or reference genes are those whose expression does not undergo any alteration at the time of the biological processes being analyzed.
Hence, genes like these work as a constant to ensure that any modification of expression seen in other kinds of genes can be considerably associated with the studied process.
The lack of verified reference genes that can be used for analyzing the meiosis of wheat eventually led these researchers to look for a set of genes that can offer accurate measurements of the expression of other kinds of genes during the meiosis process in common wheat, used for making bread, and durum wheat, used for making pasta.
This finding can prove handy for additional scientific research targeted on wheat’s genetic improvement.
By using the newly sequenced and assembled complete wheat genome as a basis, the team utilized the quantitative PCR method (used for amplifying the sequences of DNA) to examine and study the stability of specific genes and similarly establish the number of genes that are required to make the results reliable.
The reference genes, thus acquired, were either part of a gene family or duplicated, which means the real difficulty for the researchers would be to detect the particular members that can be utilized as reference genes in gene expression during the meiosis process.
Finally, two novel genes called the cyclic phosphodiesterase-like gene and salt-tolerant protein gene were also detected.
This set of genes helped the researchers to interpret the function of the meiosis process and how this could be manipulated to transform agriculture. Such strategies would help exploit chromosomal associations and enable the use of genes from other wheat species. All these measures would sustain the job of feeding the world.
Garrido, J., et al. (2020) Identification and validation of reference genes for RT-qPCR normalization in wheat meiosis. Scientific Reports. doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-59580-5.