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The control of wheat grain protein content (iCASE Industrial Partnership)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, January 06, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Production of staple crops such as wheat must increase by 50 % to meet the food requirements of the global population which is projected to exceed 9 billion people by 2050. Wheat plays several important roles in the human diet providing 20 % of calories and 20 % of protein eaten by humankind. This dual role presents a challenge because in general there is a negative trade-off between yield and protein content. This means that when we aim to increase yield, protein content may decrease which could have an adverse effect on human nutrition. Furthermore, high protein levels are required to process wheat flour into bread, and lower protein levels would result in poor quality bread. This project focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms governing the negative trade-off between yield and protein content. This knowledge will allow wheat varieties with improved yield and enhanced protein content to be developed.

During grain development, the plant may either continue to photosynthesise which could increase yield, or the plant may start to senesce, allowing nutrients to be remobilised from vegetative tissues into the developing grain and thus increase protein content. We have identified a set of candidate transcription factors which regulate senescence in wheat which we hypothesise will also play a role in regulating nutrient remobilisation. In this project we will investigate the roles of these transcription factors in regulating senescence and nutrient remobilisation and determine their effects on yield and grain protein content.

The project will:
1) Investigate the effects of mutations in these transcription factors using a sequenced mutant population (Krasileva et al., 2017) which has already been developed. These mutants are in the UK wheat variety Cadenza which enables field trials of these lines to evaluate their effects on grain protein content and yield.
2) Screen for natural variation in these transcription factors amongst breeding lines and wheat collections held by RAGT Seeds Ltd. This variation could be used to breed lines with improved grain protein content.
3) Identify the downstream targets of these transcription factors through the use of RNA-seq and DAP-seq (in vitro ChIP-seq). This will help elucidate the mechanistic basis of the trade-off between protein content and yield.

This project will provide valuable information to breed wheat varieties with improved yield and improved grain protein content. It will also train the student in a wide range of skills including molecular biology, plant physiology, field-trial design and genomics.

Funding Notes

Funding is through the MIBTP CASE studentship. EU and International students who have been resident in the UK for 3 years may be eligible please see View Website


Krasileva, K.V., et al., Uncovering hidden variation in polyploid wheat. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017. 114(6): p. E913-E921.

How good is research at University of Birmingham in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 42.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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