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Background: Exploring the natural occurring genetic variation of the wild barley genepool has become a major target of barley crop breeding programmes aiming to increase crop productivity and sustainability in global climate change scenarios. However this diversity remains unexploited and effective approaches are required to investigate the benefits that unadapted genomes could bring to crop improved resilience. In the present study, a set of Recombinant Chromosome Substitution Lines (RCSLs) derived from an elite barley cultivar 'Harrington' as the recurrent parent, and a wild barley accession from the Fertile Crescent 'Caesarea 26-24', as the donor parent (Matus et al. Genome 46:1010-23, 2003) have been utilised in field and controlled conditions to examine the contribution of wild barley genome as a source of novel allelic variation for the cultivated barley genepool.
Methods: Twenty-eight RCSLs which were selected to represent the entire genome of the wild barley accession, were genotyped using the 9 K iSelect SNP markers (Comadran et al. Nat Genet 44:1388-92, 2012) and phenotyped for a range of morphological, developmental and agronomic traits in 2 years using a rain-out shelter with four replicates and three water treatments. Data were analysed for marker traits associations using a mixed model approach.
Results: We identified lines that differ significantly from the elite parent for both qualitative and quantitative traits across growing seasons and water regimes. The detailed genotypic characterisation of the lines for over 1800 polymorphic SNP markers and the design of a mixed model analysis identified chromosomal regions associated with yield related traits where the wild barley allele had a positive response increasing grain weight and size. In addition, variation for qualitative characters, such as the presence of cuticle waxes on the developing spikes, was associated with the wild barley introgressions. Despite the coarse location of the QTLs, interesting candidate genes for the major marker-trait associations were identified using the recently released barley genome assembly.
Conclusion: This study has highlighted the role of exotic germplasm to contribute novel allelic variation by using an optimised experimental approach focused on an exotic genetic library. The results obtained constitute a step forward to the development of more tolerant and resilient varieties.
- Candidate genes