Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Scientists create first map of the wheat epigenome


Scientists at the University of Liverpool have carried out the first ever genome-wide survey of heritable molecular changes that regulate gene activity in wheat, in what could become a new tool to improve crop breeding technologies.

Epigenetic marks are chemical tags which physically attach themselves to DNA, and modify its function without changing the genetic code. DNA methylation is one such mechanism of epigenetic gene expression control that can be passed down to future generations.

This image shows the wheat fields.

Credit: Professor Anthony Hall

Now, developing technology has allowed scientists to study DNA methylation across the complex and challenging wheat genome.

Dr Laura Gardiner, from the University's Centre for Genomic Research, said: "Due to the sheer size of the wheat genome, undertaking a survey like this has been technically unworkable until now, but understanding how and when genes are activated is a key part of understanding its complexity.

"This work opens up a whole new level of genetic variation which can be exploited by wheat breeders. In the future we see epigenetic marks becoming an important new tool in this area."

Using a combination of sodium bisulphate treatment and targeted gene enrichment, the team observed that methylation is highly conserved across all three genomes of hexaploid wheat, but found evidence of sub-genome specific methylation.

Methylation changes were also found to be associated with changes in gene-expression and, although not demonstrated, these changes are likely to affect the phenotype. The stability of methylation in the wheat genome was also shown, with some methylation patterns conserved for over 0.5 million years.

Liverpool scientists created the first draft of the wheat genome in 2012, enabling new levels of precision breeding for this globally important food source which provides 20% of daily calories and protein for the world's population.

Professor Anthony Hall, who led the study, added: "With the ability to characterise genome-wide patterns of methylation we can now address fundamental questions in wheat, such as the role of epigenetics in the domestication of crops and the stability and long-term function of methylation.

"We can also seek to understand how methylation changes important traits for farmers like disease resistance and yield variability. These are all key topics for future research at Liverpool and will impact on world agriculture."


The project was funded as part of the ERA-CAPS programme, with support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

The paper "A genome-wide survey of DNA methylation in hexaploid wheat" is published in Genome Biology.

Media Contact

Nicola Frost


Nicola Frost | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>