Short periods of high temperature during meiosis prevent normal meiotic progression and reduce grain number in hexaploid wheat (Triticum aestivum L.).

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Exposure of wheat to high temperatures during male meiosis prevents normal meiotic progression and reduces grain number. We define a temperature-sensitive period and link heat tolerance to chromosome 5D. This study assesses the effects of heat on meiotic progression and grain number in hexaploid wheat (Triticum aestivum L. var. Chinese Spring), defines a heat-sensitive stage and evaluates the role of chromosome 5D in heat tolerance. Plants were exposed to high temperatures (30 or 35 °C) in a controlled environment room for 20-h periods during meiosis and the premeiotic interphase just prior to meiosis. Examination of pollen mother cells (PMCs) from immature anthers immediately before and after heat treatment enabled precise identification of the developmental phases being exposed to heat. A temperature-sensitive period was defined, lasting from premeiotic interphase to late leptotene, during which heat can prevent PMCs from progressing through meiosis. PMCs exposed to 35 °C were less likely to progress than those exposed to 30 °C. Grain number per spike was reduced at 30 °C, and reduced even further at 35 °C. Chinese Spring nullisomic 5D-tetrasomic 5B (N5DT5B) plants, which lack chromosome 5D, were more susceptible to heat during premeiosis-leptotene than Chinese Spring plants with the normal (euploid) chromosome complement. The proportion of plants with PMCs progressing through meiosis after heat treatment was lower for N5DT5B plants than for euploids, but the difference was not significant. However, following exposure to 30 °C, in euploid plants grain number was reduced (though not significantly), whereas in N5DT5B plants the reduction was highly significant. After exposure to 35 °C, the reduction in grain number was highly significant for both genotypes. Implications of these findings for the breeding of thermotolerant wheat are discussed.