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Modification of starch synthesis and yield in wheat endosperm

The project focuses on factors that determine the concentration of adpglucose (ADPG) in wheat endosperm. ADPG is the immediate soluble substrate for starch synthesis in the amyloplast and affects both the rate of synthesis and the quality of starch produced. The expression of particular enzymes and amyloplastic translocators will be modified by the transformation of wheat. Laboratory and fields trials will be conducted to determine effects on yield and starch functionality and the molecular mechanisms, which control the expression of particular genes, will be delineated. The project brings together six partners from academia and industry, and clear exploitation plans are in place to optimise the benefits of this research, which will lead to a decrease in production costs and environmental impact in the European Union.

This project aims to result in the production of new starches with altered amylose:amylopectin ratios and to improve productivity (grain weight) by increasing starch synthesis. The application of the results in the non-food sector will be evaluated in a commercialisation study.
Scientific goals:
1) to understand the biochemical and molecular mechanisms, which determine the concentration of ADPG within amyloplasts
2) to manipulate the activities of those components, which control the amount of ADPG in wheat endosperm using transgenic technology
3) to determine the impact that such manipulations have on both the yield and type of starch produced in controlled environment and field trials
4) to indicate the consequences of such modifications in relation to starch functionality, exploitation and commercialisation.
Agricultural goals:
1) to contribute to the opening up of diverse markets for non-food use of wheat starch, thereby reducing the vulnerability of the cereal sector
2) to utilise agricultural resources rationally by harnessing biotechnology, thus benefiting the producer and consumer
3) to increase productivity, which may benefit all aspects of the cereal sector with the potential for further set-aside of land
4) to provide new opportunities for employment in rural areas, as a result of diversification.

Industrial/commercial goals:
The approaches outlined in this proposal aim to restore yield potential, making, for the first time, wheat with modified starches attractive to industry. Increasing starch yield and producing starches with altered characteristics in plants, either as a result of the alterations in adpglucose concentrations, or by crossing/transforming higher yielding traits into genetic backgrounds which already elicit altered starch structure will:
1) reduce production costs, bringing benefits to both producers and consumers
2) reduce post-harvest chemical processing costs
3) generate novel starches for non-food use, adding diversity without a decrease in harvestable material.

Environmental goals and benefits:
A number of environmental gains are perceived as arising from this research in the longer term. Increasing starch yield in wheat will result in:
1) reduced fertiliser inputs, since less will be needed to achieve the same yield. This will reduce the problems of pollution, which can occur in agricultural systems, particularly in relation to run-off into aquatic systems and problems that can be associated with salinisation in regions of low precipitation
2) a reduction in the amount of land needed to achieve the same output produced now will allow land to be taken out of production and put to use for conservation and leisure purposes
3) lower transport and energy costs associated with reduced inputs.

Producing starches with altered characteristics in plants will:
1) significantly aid reduction in post-harvest chemical processing, reducing energy demands
2) reduce the risks of waterway pollution from chemical processing plants, as the starch industry is a major user of water.

Social goals:
The impact of the research proposed will allow:
1) the tailoring of crops more precisely to human needs
2) the production of novel starches with the potential to open up new markets, create wealth and generate new jobs, thereby increasing the quality of life for EU citizens
3) the opportunity for technology interaction and scientific exchange between the partners.

Progress to Date
A number of deliverables were expected during the first 36 months of the project and many of these have been achieved. In order to understand the biochemical and molecular mechanisms, which determine the concentration of ADGP within amyloplasts, the manipulation of activities of those components which control the amount of ADPG in wheat endosperm using transgenic technology has been used.

In this experimental plant production on lines expressing new genes for starch synthesis enhancement, the main evaluated effects were on plant production (number of grains/plant and weight/grain). It will be of great interest to confirm this observed behaviour in a field evaluation, where there will be more competition between plants for water, fertilisation etc, but also more light energy available.
The major characteristics improved by the approach taken in this project were the total starch production per plant. As starch represents 70% of the grain, any increase in efficiency of starch accumulation by the plant would logically improve total grain yield. No negative effects were seen on any other value of the wheat grain examined: protein contents and grain hardness and shape were not modifed.
This is the first step towards confirming the interest of the new wheat starch characteristics. Three actions should now be taken towards commercialisation of the wheat starch and transgenic lines:
breeding and seed production
agronomic and industrial testing

Classified in CEREALS

Scientist responsible for the project

Oxford Road, Stopford Building Box 3614
M13 9PT Manchester
United Kingdom (The) - GB

Phone: +44 1612 753899
Fax: +44 1612 753938


Project ID QLRT-1999-01085
Organisation Victoria University of Manchester - School of Biological Sciences
Area 5.1.1
Start date 01 July 2000
Duration (months) 42
Total cost 1 847 360 €
Total EC contribution   1 494 111 €
Status Completed
Web address of the project

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