The wheat Phs-A1 pre-harvest sprouting resistance locus delays the rate of seed dormancy loss and maps 0.3 cM distal to the PM19 genes in UK germplasm
The precocious germination of cereal grains before harvest, also known as pre-harvest sprouting, is an important source of yield and quality loss in cereal production. Pre-harvest sprouting is a complex grain defect and is becoming an increasing challenge due to changing climate patterns. Resistance to sprouting is multi-genic, although a significant proportion of the sprouting variation in modern wheat cultivars is controlled by a few major quantitative trait loci, including Phs-A1 in chromosome arm 4AL. Despite its importance, little is known about the physiological basis and the gene(s) underlying this important locus. In this study, we characterized Phs-A1 and show that it confers resistance to sprouting damage by affecting the rate of dormancy loss during dry seed after-ripening. We show Phs-A1 to be effective even when seeds develop at low temperature (13 °C). Comparative analysis of syntenic Phs-A1 intervals in wheat and Brachypodium uncovered ten orthologous genes, including the Plasma Membrane 19 genes (PM19-A1 and PM19-A2) previously proposed as the main candidates for this locus. However, high-resolution fine-mapping in two bi-parental UK mapping populations delimited Phs-A1 to an interval 0.3 cM distal to the PM19 genes. This study suggests the possibility that more than one causal gene underlies this major pre-harvest sprouting locus. The information and resources reported in this study will help test this hypothesis across a wider set of germplasm and will be of importance for breeding more sprouting resilient wheat varieties.