• Systematic, Efficient, and Accurate Approach for Identifying Key Regulatory Factors in Wheat Spike Development

    TIME: 05 Feb 2024
    Wheat, a globally significant food crop, derives its yield from factors such as number of spikes per unit area, thousand-grain weight, and grain yield per spike. The shape of the spike directly influences spikelet number, grain yield, and overall wheat productivity. Uncovering pivotal regulatory factors governing wheat spike development and investigating their molecular mechanisms hold immense promise for precision breeding and molecular enhancement of spike morphology.
    In a recent study featured in Molecular Plant (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.molp.2024.01.010), led by XIAO Jun’s team at the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, an innovative approach was introduced. By integrating multidimensional omics, population genetics, and gene function analysis, the study outlines a systematic and efficient strategy for identifying key regulatory factors in wheat spike development.
    Through comprehensive sequencing of wheat spike transcriptomes, chromatin accessibility, and histone modifications across pivotal developmental stages, researchers delineated the dynamic transcriptional and epigenetic landscape of wheat spike maturation, culminating in the construction of a transcriptional regulatory network (TRN). By merging multidimensional omics with population genetics, they pinpointed 227 putative regulatory factors influencing spike development, with 42 already implicated in wheat or rice spike formation. Phenotypic screening of 61 novel genes via the KN9204 mutant library unveiled 36 mutations, including TaMYC2-A1, TaMYB30-A1, and TaWRKY37-A1, altering flowering time or spike morphology. Functional characterization of TaMYB30-A1 underscored the TRN’s efficacy in deciphering gene functionality and its practical utility in wheat breeding initiatives.
    Figure 1. Systematic identification of key regulatory factors for wheat spike development using multi-omics data.
    Simultaneously, a comprehensive wheat spike development multi-omics database, known as WSMOD, has been launched ( This platform offers researchers convenient “all-in-one“ access to various services, including gene information retrieval, co-expression analysis, TRN prediction, epigenetic map plotting, and mutant library search functionalities.
    Figure 2. Wheat spike development multi-omics database (WSMOD)
    In summary, this study elucidates the dynamic transformations occurring in wheat spike development, shaped by both gene transcription and epigenetic regulation. It integrates multi-dimensional data including transcriptomics, epigenomics, and population genetics to unveil these processes. The construction of a wheat spike development-specific TRN presents a systematic, efficient, and accurate strategy for identifying key regulatory factors.
    This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China Innovation Group Project, the Chinese Academy of Sciences Strategical Project, the National Key Research and Development Program Youth Project, and the Shandong Provincial Natural Science Foundation Major Basic Research Project.
    Dr. XIAO Jun
    Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences