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Joint Research Unit 1095 Genetics, Diversity and Ecophysiology of Cereals

Integrative Biology of Grain composition

Equipe BIG

More than 80% of world wheat production is used after industrial processing. Most of this processing requires specific protein concentration. But in wheat, as in all arable species, the grain protein concentration is negatively correlated to grain yield.

Growth forecasts for the world's population, combined with changes in dietary behaviour in developing countries, increases in the non-food uses of cereals in developed countries and a stagnation of cultivated land areas, mean that it is necessary to envisage a 70% to 100% increase in cereal yields between now and 2050 if we are to ensure food security at a global level. This increase in yield must be achieved by reducing the environmental impact of cereal crops, which requires a reduction (or at least no increase) in the use of fertilisers. In this context, profound modifications to the end-use value of wheat should be observed during the years to come. In addition, the increase in climate variations between years, as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will probably cause greater inter-annual variations in both yield and grain protein concentration. This later must then be adapted, which means that the underlying mecanisms controlling it must be better understood.

The objective of the BIG team's research plan is therefore :

  1. to identify the chromosome regions and genes implicated in the (trans-)regulation of storage protein synthesis
  2. in collaboration with the ABC team to develop a simulation model that can predict the effects of the environment and genotype, not only on grain yield and protein concentration but also on the protein composition of grain.

The ultimate purpose of the project is to:

  1. propose molecular markers and genes, and also ideotypes, that will enable the development of new wheat varieties with improved nitrogen use efficiency in terms of quality (i.e. bread-making quality per unit of total protein concentration)
  2. predict the impact of climate change on the end-use value of wheat. A clearer understanding of the compensation phenomena between storage protein fractions should enable the development of wheat varieties for targeted uses or that are deficient in some of the gliadins which have been incriminated in the context of allergenicity.

The work of the team is divided into two main themes :

1. Environmental and genetic variability of wheat nutritional density

2. Environmental, genetic and molecular bases of the nutritional regulation of grain protein composition