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A study of the genetics and physiological basis of grain protein concentration in Durum wheat (Triticum turgidum L. var. durum)



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In durum wheat (Triticum turgidum L. var durum), grain protein concentration (GPC) and gluten quality are among the important factors influencing pasta-making quality. Semolina with high protein content produces pasta with increased tolerance to overcooking and greater cooked firmness. However, genetic improvement of GPC is difficult largely because of its negative correlation with grain yield, and a strong genotype x environment interaction. Therefore, identification of quantitative trait loci (QTL) for high GPC and the associated markers is a priority to enhance selection efficiency in breeding durum wheat for elevated GPC. At a physiological level, GPC is influenced by several factors including nitrogen remobilization from vegetative organs and direct post-anthesis nitrogen uptake (NUP) from the soil. Understanding the relationship between elevated GPC and nitrogen remobilization, and post-anthesis NUP will enable durum wheat breeders to develop varieties that not only produce high yield and high GPC, but also exhibit better nitrogen use efficiency. The objectives of this study were: (1) to identify and validate QTL for elevated GPC in two durum wheat populations; and (2) to determine if elevated GPC is due to more efficient nitrogen remobilization and/or greater post-anthesis NUP. A genetic map was constructed with SSR and DArT® markers in a doubled haploid population from the cross Strongfield x DT695, and GPC data were collected in replicated trials in six Canadian environments from 2002 to 2005. Two stable QTL for high GPC, QGpc.usw-B3 on chromosome 2B and QGpc.usw-A3 on 7A, were identified. Strongfield, the high GPC parent, contributed the alleles for elevated GPC at both QTL. These two QTL were not associated with variation in grain weight (seed size) or grain yield. QGpc.usw-A3 was validated in a second Strongfield-derived population as that QTL was significant in all six testing environments. Averaged over five locations, selection for QGpc.usw-A3 resulted in a +0.4% to +1.0% increase in GPC, with only small effects on yield in most environments. A physiological study of grain protein accumulation revealed that regardless of the growing condition, nitrogen remobilization was the major contributor for grain nitrogen in durum genotypes evaluated, accounting for an average of 84.3% of total GPC. This study confirmed that introgression of Gpc-B1 into Langdon resulted in increased GPC, and this GPC increase was due to higher N remobilization. Strongfield expressed greater N remobilization than DT695 and the semi-dwarf cultivar Commander, but N remobilization was not the determining factor for Strongfield’s elevated GPC. Strongfield expressed greater post-anthesis NUP than DT695. Similarly, a selection of six high-GPC doubled haploid (DH) lines from the cross DT695 x Strongfield expressed significantly greater post-anthesis NUP than six low-GPC DH selections, supporting the hypothesis that elevated GPC in Strongfield is derived from greater post-anthesis NUP. All six high-GPC DH selections carried the Strongfield allele at QGpc.usw-A3, suggesting this QTL maybe associated with post-anthesis NUP.



durum wheat, post-anthesis nitrogen uptake, nitrogen remobilization, physiology, QTL, genetics, grain protein concentration



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Plant Sciences


Plant Sciences


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