Theoretical and Applied Genetics

, Volume 119, Issue 4, pp 645–662 | Cite as

A quantitative genetic study for elucidating the contribution of glutamine synthetase, glutamate dehydrogenase and other nitrogen-related physiological traits to the agronomic performance of common wheat

  • Jean-Xavier Fontaine
  • Catherine Ravel
  • Karine Pageau
  • Emmanuel Heumez
  • Frédéric Dubois
  • Bertrand Hirel
  • Jacques Le GouisEmail author
Original Paper


To better understand the genetic variability for nitrogen use efficiency in winter wheat is a necessity in the frame of the present economic and ecological context. The objective of this work was to investigate the role of the enzymes glutamine synthetase (GS) and glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH), and other nitrogen (N)-related physiological traits in the control of agronomic performance in wheat. A quantitative genetics approach was developed using the Arche × Récital population of doubled haploid lines grown for 3 years in the field. GS and GDH activities, ammonium, amino acid and protein contents were measured at different stages of plant development in different organs after flowering. Significant genotypic effects were observed for all measured physiological and agronomical traits. Heading date was negatively correlated with ammonium, amino acid, protein contents and GS activity in the flag leaf lamina. Grain protein content was positively correlated with both ammonium and amino acid content, and to a lesser extent with soluble protein content and GS activity. A total of 148 quantitative trait loci (QTLs) were detected, 104 QTLs for physiological traits and 44 QTLs for agronomic traits. Twenty-six QTLs were detected for GDH activity spread over 13 chromosomes and 25 QTLs for GS activity spread over 12 chromosomes. We found only a co-localization between a QTL for GS activity and GSe, a structural gene encoding cytosolic GS on chromosome 4B. A coincidence between a QTL for GDH activity and a gene encoding GDH was also found on chromosome 2B. QTL regions combining both physiological and agronomical QTLs were mainly identified on linkage groups 2A, 2B, 2D, 5A, 5B and 5D. This approach allowed us to propose possible functions of physiological traits to explain the variation observed for agronomic traits including yield and its components.


Glutamine Synthetase Flag Leaf Physiological Trait Glutamine Synthetase Activity Grain Protein Content 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



14 days after flowering


28 days after flowering


Doubled haploid line


Dry matter


Dry weight




Glutamate dehydrogenase


Glutamine synthetase


Logarithm of the odd ratio




Nitrogen use efficiency


Quantitative trait locus


Single nucleotide polymorphism

Abbreviations of the 16 traits studied


Flag leaf lamina area


Amino acids


Carbon in flag leaf lamina


Carbon nitrogen ratio in flag leaf lamina


Heading date


Flag leaf lamina dry weight


Flag leaf lamina senescence


Glutamate dehydrogenase activity expressed per dry matter


Glutamate dehydrogenase activity expressed per protein


Grain protein content


Grain number per spike


Glutamine synthetase activity expressed per dry matter


Glutamine synthetase activity expressed per protein


Nitrogen content of the flag leaf lamina




Protein content of the flag leaf


Quantity of protein per grain


Thousand kernel weight



We thank Dr. Dimah Habash and Professor Peter Lea for their valuable comments and suggestions on the manuscript. We thank Damien Bouthors, Dominique Brasseur and Jean-Pierre Noclerc for their technical assistance. Financial support by the Conseil Régional de Picardie (IBFBio project no. 2005.2) is greatly acknowledged.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 33 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (PDF 5 kb)
122_2009_1076_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (191 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 191 kb)
122_2009_1076_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (29 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (PDF 28.9 kb)
122_2009_1076_MOESM5_ESM.pdf (1.9 mb)
Supplementary material 5 (PDF 1,963 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-Xavier Fontaine
    • 1
  • Catherine Ravel
    • 4
  • Karine Pageau
    • 1
  • Emmanuel Heumez
    • 2
  • Frédéric Dubois
    • 1
  • Bertrand Hirel
    • 3
  • Jacques Le Gouis
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculté des sciencesUPJV EA3900 BioPI, Nitrogen MetabolismAmiens CedexFrance
  2. 2.Abiotic Stress and Differentiation of Cultivated PlantsINRA/USTL UMR 1281Péronne CedexFrance
  3. 3.Plant Nitrogen NutritionINRA UR 511Versailles CedexFrance
  4. 4.Genetics, Diversity and Ecophysiology of CerealsINRA/UBP UMR 1095Clermont-FerrandFrance

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