The barley inflorescence (‘spike’) comprises a multi-noded central stalk (‘rachis’) with tri-partite clusters of uni-floretted spikelets attached alternately along its length. Relative fertility of lateral spikelets within each cluster leads to spikes with two or six rows of grain or an intermediate morphology. Understanding the mechanisms controlling this key developmental step could provide novel solutions to enhanced grain yield. Classical genetic studies identified five major SIX-ROWED SPIKE (VRS) genes, with four now known to encode transcription factors. Here, we identify and characterise the remaining major VRS gene, VRS3, as encoding a putative Jumonji C-type H3K9me2/me3 demethylase, a regulator of chromatin state. Exploring the expression network modulated by VRS3 reveals specific interactions, both with other VRS genes and genes involved in stress, hormone and sugar metabolism. We show that combining a vrs3 mutant allele with natural six-rowed alleles of VRS1 and VRS5 leads to increased lateral grain size and greater grain uniformity.
- Histone modification