, Volume 249, Issue 4, pp 1157–1175 | Cite as

Candidate genes and genome-wide association study of grain protein content and protein deviation in durum wheat

  • D. Nigro
  • A. GadaletaEmail author
  • G. Mangini
  • P. Colasuonno
  • I. Marcotuli
  • A. Giancaspro
  • S. L. Giove
  • R. Simeone
  • A. Blanco
Original Article


Main conclusion

Stable QTL for grain protein content co-migrating with nitrogen-related genes have been identified by the candidate genes and genome-wide association mapping approaches useful for marker-assisted selection.

Grain protein content (GPC) is one of the most important quality traits in wheat, defining the nutritional and end-use properties and rheological characteristics. Over the years, a number of breeding programs have been developed aimed to improving GPC, most of them having been prevented by the negative correlation with grain yield. To overcome this issue, a collection of durum wheat germplasm was evaluated for both GPC and grain protein deviation (GPD) in seven field trials. Fourteen candidate genes involved in several processes related to nitrogen metabolism were precisely located on two high-density consensus maps of common and durum wheat, and six of them were found to be highly associated with both traits. The wheat collection was genotyped using the 90 K iSelect array, and 11 stable quantitative trait loci (QTL) for GPC were detected in at least three environments and the mean across environments by the genome-wide association mapping. Interestingly, seven QTL were co-migrating with N-related candidate genes. Four QTL were found to be significantly associated to increases of GPD, indicating that selecting for GPC could not affect final grain yield per spike. The combined approaches of candidate genes and genome-wide association mapping led to a better understanding of the genetic relationships between grain storage proteins and grain yield per spike, and provided useful information for marker-assisted selection programs.


Genome-wide association mapping Grain protein content Grain protein deviation Grain yield GPC and grain yield relationships Nitrogen-related genes QTL mapping SNP markers 



Alanine aminotransferase


Asparagine synthetase


Candidate gene


Glutamate dehydrogenase


Glutamate synthetase


Grain protein content


Grain protein deviation


Glutamine synthetase


Genome-wide association study


Grain yield


Grain yield per spike


Nitrite reductase


Nitrate reductase


Nitrate transporter


Nitrogen use efficiency


Pyruvate orthophosphate dikinase


Quantitative trait locus



The research project was supported by grants from Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca, project ‘ISCOCEM’, and from Regione Puglia “Programma regionale a sostegno della specializzazione intelligente e della sostenibilità sociale ed ambientale-FutureInResearch”.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

425_2018_3075_MOESM1_ESM.docx (185 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 185 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Nigro
    • 1
  • A. Gadaleta
    • 2
    Email author
  • G. Mangini
    • 1
  • P. Colasuonno
    • 2
  • I. Marcotuli
    • 2
  • A. Giancaspro
    • 2
  • S. L. Giove
    • 2
  • R. Simeone
    • 1
  • A. Blanco
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Soil, Plant and Food Sciences, Genetics and Plant Breeding SectionUniversity of BariBariItaly
  2. 2.Department of Agricultural and Environmental Science, Research Unit of “Genetics and Plant Biotechnology”University of BariBariItaly

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