Genetic dissection of durum wheat arabinoxylan content

Description of the Topic: Arabinoxylans (AX) are the major dietary fibers (DF) components in wheat and their consumption has been associated with multiple health benefits. However, in most of the countries across the world, the daily DF consumption is well below the minimum quantity suggested by most health organizations. Selection of wheat varieties with higher AX content could be an efficient approach to improve the daily consumption of DF.

Several studies revealed that wheat grain AX content is highly genetically controlled, and that wide AX content variation exists across different wheat lines suggesting that breeding for higher AX content is possible. Genomic regions significantly associated with greater AX content have been identified in bread wheat, however, more studies exploring the genetic control of this trait on durum wheat are needed.

For this reason, the objective of the present study are to: 1) Investigate the AX content variation within a durum wheat association mapping panel; 2) Understand the effect of the genotype (G), environment (E) and of the G x E interaction on the AX content variation; 3) Perform a genome-wide association study (GWAS) analysis to detect genomic regions significantly associated with grain AX content and 4) Test already available molecular markers associated with the trait of interest and develop new ones.  

The outcomes of this project will help improve the genetic basis of AX biosynthesis in durum wheat and will provide essential information for the development and selection of durum wheat lines with improved grain DF content.

Work expectations: The candidate student will be in charge of: 1) Analyzing the AX concentration of the selected set of durum wheat lines grown across different environments and years through both direct and indirect methods; 2) Using statistical analysis to understand the heritability of grain AX; 3) Performing a GWAS analysis and 4) Testing and developing different molecular markers associated with AX content variation. All the results obtained from this study are expected to be clearly organized and compiled in the form of a scientific paper.

Required skills: Good knowledge of plant genetics and ability to work with chemical/biochemical methodologies in the laboratory are required. The candidate will work collaboratively with colleagues and provide necessary assistance when requested.