Functional characterization of GPC-1 genes in hexaploid wheat.

In wheat, monocarpic senescence is a tightly regulated process during which nitrogen (N) and micronutrients stored pre-anthesis are remobilized from vegetative tissues to the developing grains. Recently, a close connection between senescence and remobilization was shown through the map-based cloning of the GPC (grain protein content) gene in wheat. GPC-B1 encodes a NAC transcription factor associated with earlier senescence and increased grain protein, iron and zinc content, and is deleted or non-functional in most commercial wheat varieties. In the current research, we identified 'loss of function' ethyl methanesulfonate mutants for the two GPC-B1 homoeologous genes; GPC-A1 and GPC-D1, in a hexaploid wheat mutant population. The single gpc-a1 and gpc-d1 mutants, the double gpc-1 mutant and control lines were grown under field conditions at four locations and were characterized for senescence, GPC, micronutrients and yield parameters. Our results show a significant delay in senescence in both the gpc-a1 and gpc-d1 single mutants and an even stronger effect in the gpc-1 double mutant in all the environments tested in this study. The accumulation of total N in the developing grains showed a similar increase in the control and gpc-1 plants until 25 days after anthesis (DAA) but at 41 and 60 DAA the control plants had higher grain N content than the gpc-1 mutants. At maturity, GPC in all mutants was significantly lower than in control plants while grain weight was unaffected. These results demonstrate that the GPC-A1 and GPC-D1 genes have a redundant function and play a major role in the regulation of monocarpic senescence and nutrient remobilization in wheat.