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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Research project: The regulatory mechanisms controlling zinc content in wheat

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Developing an increased understanding of the regulatory mechanisms controlling zinc content in wheat may allow the formulation of targeted breeding programmes and biofortification strategies to enhance the zinc content of this staple cereal.

Zinc deficiency is a global issue, with an estimated 30% of the world's population suffering from chronic zinc deficiency. A major contributing factor to this chronic zinc deficiency in humans is the inherently low concentration of micronutrients (such as zinc) in staple crops (such as wheat).

In this project we are examining the regulatory mechanisms controlling zinc content in wheat. In particular, we are comparing the expression of membrane transporter and transcription factor genes in wheat grown under zinc-replete and zinc-deficient conditions.  These genes are being functionally characterised using yeast and Arabidopsis complementation approaches.  In addition, a varied wheat germplasm (grown at Rothamsted Research) has been assessed for varieties showing interesting zinc characteristics, in terms of zinc uptake, partitioning and accumulation.  Zinc regulation will be studied in these varieties of interest. Further understanding of the zinc regulatory processes in wheat may allow the development of targeted breeding programmes and biofortification strategies to enhance the zinc content of this staple cereal.

Funding: BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership in Food Security.  The project is joint-hosted by the University of Southampton and Rothamsted Research.

PI lead on project and contact : Dr. Lorraine E. Williams (lew@soton.ac.uk).

The effect of zinc-deficient conditions on root growth.  Left plant shows stunted root phenotype under zinc-deficient conditions. Right plant grown under control conditions.
Zinc deficiency reduces root growth
Field sampling of a diverse wheat germplasm at Rothamsted Research to investigate wheat cultivars with interesting zinc characteristics.
Field sampling at Rothamsted
Field sampling at Rothamsted

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Environmental Biosciences

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