Systematic identification of wheat spike developmental regulators by integrated multi-omics, transcriptional network, GWAS, and genetic analyses.

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The spike architecture of wheat plays a crucial role in determining grain number, making it a key trait for optimization in wheat breeding programs. In this study, we used a multi-omic approach to analyze the transcriptome and epigenome profiles of the young spike at eight developmental stages, revealing coordinated changes in chromatin accessibility and H3K27me3 abundance during the flowering transition. We constructed a core transcriptional regulatory network (TRN) that drives wheat spike formation and experimentally validated a multi-layer regulatory module involving TaSPL15, TaAGLG1, and TaFUL2. By integrating the TRN with genome-wide association studies, we identified 227 transcription factors, including 42 with known functions and 185 with unknown functions. Further investigation of 61 novel transcription factors using multiple homozygous mutant lines revealed 36 transcription factors that regulate spike architecture or flowering time, such as TaMYC2-A1, TaMYB30-A1, and TaWRKY37-A1. Of particular interest, TaMYB30-A1, downstream of and repressed by WFZP, was found to regulate fertile spikelet number. Notably, the excellent haplotype of TaMYB30-A1, which contains a C allele at the WFZP binding site, was enriched during wheat breeding improvement in China, leading to improved agronomic traits. Finally, we constructed a free and open access Wheat Spike Multi-Omic Database ( Our study identifies novel and high-confidence regulators and offers an effective strategy for dissecting the genetic basis of wheat spike development, with practical value for wheat breeding.