Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, January 17
Research undertaken by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has laid the groundwork for developing a variety of wheat that does not lose its productivity under heat stress.
Heat stress causes a dramatic reduction in yield as well as quality of wheat, which is the staple for more than one-third of the world’s population and also a critical crop in India where many regions are prone to heat waves.
The Biotechnology Division of CSIR’s Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT) at Palampur is exploring the epigenetic route to modify gene expression in a manner that is stably transmitted, but do not involve differences in the underlying DNA sequence, so that the heritable genes do not buckle under heat stress and non-stress conditions during different grain filling stages.
Dr Vijay Gahlaut, a faculty fellow of the department, will identify the role of DNA methylation, which is a biological process by which methyl groups are added to the DNA molecule, patterns of heat stress-tolerant and heat stress-sensitive wheat genotypes during different grain filling stages. This will be carried out through a process called ‘epigenomic mapping’, which will also help in the identification of natural epigenetic variation.
His recent paper on the subject published in the journal ‘Genomics’ has shown differential expression patterns of specific genes (designated C5-MTase) under heat stress. This suggests their role in stress response in wheat could give a major clue to producing heat-tolerant productive wheat varieties.
The utilisation of identical genes that differ in the extent of methylation identified through his research could be one of the most promising solutions to improving wheat productivity by engineering elite wheat varieties with enhanced heat stress tolerance and increase grain yield, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Science and Technology today.
Methylation is a conserved mechanism which regulates the gene expression and plays a vital role in various biological processes. It also plays a significant role in plant development as well as in abiotic stress tolerance.
Wheat is affected severely by abiotic stresses that limit the achievement of yield potential and therefore it is urgently required to study its developmental characteristics and stress tolerance mechanisms, according to the study.
Using the latest high-quality version of the wheat genome the study identified 52 C5-MTase elements in wheat and also analysed gene structures, conserved domains, phylogeny, chromosome localisation, regulating elements and sub-cellular localisations.