Combined effects of a glycine-rich RNA-binding protein and a NAC transcription factor extend grain fill duration and improve malt barley agronomic performance

Abstract

Key message

Two key barley genes independently control anthesis and senescence timing, enabling the manipulation of grain fill duration, grain size/plumpness, and grain protein concentration.

Abstract

Plant developmental processes such as flowering and senescence have direct effects on cereal yield and quality. Previous work highlighted the importance of two tightly linked genes encoding a glycine-rich RNA-binding protein (HvGR-RBP1) and a NAC transcription factor (HvNAM1), controlling barley anthesis timing, senescence, and percent grain protein. Varieties that differ in HvGR-RBP1 expression, ‘Karl’(low) and ‘Lewis’(high), also differ in sequence 1 KB upstream of translation start site, including an ~ 400 bp G rich insertion in the 5′-flanking region of the ‘Karl’ allele, which could disrupt gene expression. To improve malt quality, the (low-grain protein, delayed-senescence) ‘Karl’ HvNAM1 allele was introgressed into Montana germplasm. After several seasons of selection, the resulting germplasm was screened for the allelic combinations of HvGR-RBP1 and HvNAM1, finding lines combining ‘Karl’ alleles for both genes (−/−), lines combining ‘Lewis’ (functional, expressed) HvGR-RBP1 with ‘Karl’ HvNAM1 alleles ( ±), and lines combining ‘Lewis’ alleles for both genes (+ / +). Field experiments indicate that the functional (‘Lewis,’  +) HvGR-RBP1 allele is associated with earlier anthesis and with slightly shorter plants, while the ‘Karl’ (−) HvNAM1 allele delays maturation. Genotypes carrying the ± allele combination therefore had a significantly (3 days) extended grain fill duration, leading to a higher percentage of plump kernels, slightly enhanced test weight, and lower grain protein concentration when compared to the other allele combinations. Overall, our data suggest an important function for HvGR-RBP1 in the control of barley reproductive development and set the stage for a more detailed functional analysis of this gene.

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Code availability

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Availability of data and material

All data utilized are contained within the manuscript, or within Supplementary Material. Data are shown in Tables.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank Huseyin Yavas for technical assistance.

Funding

This project was supported by funding from the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES) and the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee.

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BA performed laboratory experiments, analyzed data, and wrote the manuscript; DM performed field studies for experiment 2 and collected agronomic data; DP and TB contributed agronomic data for experiment 1; JL guided and assisted BA in statistical analyses of both experiments; TH provided USDA barley core; JS and AF designed and guided the research and assisted BA with manuscript preparation. The manuscript was reviewed and approved by all authors.

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Correspondence to Jamie Sherman.

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Alptekin, B., Mangel, D., Pauli, D. et al. Combined effects of a glycine-rich RNA-binding protein and a NAC transcription factor extend grain fill duration and improve malt barley agronomic performance. Theor Appl Genet (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00122-020-03701-1

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