Tracey is currently working with natural germplasm variants and induced mutants to investigate genes which affect seed composition and seed quality traits in pea.
The aim is to understand the relationship between protein accumulation and overall yield, and to address whether the apparent negative relationship between these might be broken. By knocking-out specific genes which encode proteins with negative attributes, the Domoney group might improve protein quality in pea seeds for human and animal nutrition as well as yield.
Protein variants have been identified from high-throughput screening of the Pisum germplasm collection, curated at the John Innes Centre, and from induced mutant populations. Mutant lines have been crossed to give various combinations of mutations, which can now be tested for their effects on seed and plant phenotypes, where possible as near-isogenic lines.
Besides the direct impact of the mutations on protein profile, the group are monitoring their effects on carbohydrate metabolism, plant growth, yield and plant/insect interactions. Several so-called anti-nutritional proteins may act as insect deterrents, which they can now test in field trials using the relevant mutant and wild-type near-isolines with a specific focus on pea moth and pea aphid.
Part of this work is relevant to PeaGen, a BBSRC-funded LINK project, involving the University of Aberystwyth, PGRO and a wide range of industries (including poultry and farm animal industries).
The Domoney group also work closely with Dr Alfonso Clemente’s group at CSIC, Granada, Spain, to understand the impact of specific mutations on protein digestibility and associated amino acid scores.