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Modification of starch synthesis and yield in wheat endosperm

Contract nr: QLK5-CT-1999-01085
Project type: RS (Research and Technological Development Project)
Starting date: 01-07-2000
Duration: 42 months
Total cost: 1,847,360 EUR
EC Contribution: 1,494,111 EUR
Scientific Officer: Michel VAN DEN BOSSCHE
Research topic: 5.1.1. Sustainable agriculture/Plant Systems

The aim of this project is to improve the production of starch in wheat through manipulation of the key components involved in regulating its synthesis, and an understanding of transcriptional controls which regulate these components. In particular, the project focuses on factors which 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. 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 EU.

This project aims to achieve the production of new starches with altered amylose - amylopectin ratios - and to improve productivity (grain weight) by increasing starch synthesis. Application of the results in the non-food sector will be evaluated in a commercialisation study.

Scientific goals
- To understand the biochemical and molecular mechanisms which determine the concentration of ADPG within amyloplasts;
- To manipulate the activities of those components which control the amount of ADPG in wheat endosperm, using transgenic technology;
- To determine the impact that such manipulations have on both the yield and type of starch produced in controlled environment and field trials; and
- To indicate the consequences of such modifications in relation to starch functionality, exploitation and commercialisation.

Agricultural goals
The results of this programme will contribute to:
- The opening up of diverse markets for non-food use of wheat starch, thereby reducing the vulnerability of the cereal sector;
- Rational utilisation of agricultural resources by harnessing biotechnology to the benefit of producer and consumer;
- Increased productivity which may benefit all aspects of the cereal sector, with the potential for further set-aside of land; and
- 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 wheat with modified starches attractive to industry, for the first time. Increasing starch yield and producing starches with altered characteristics in plants, either as a result of the alterations in ADPG concentrations, or by crossing/transforming higher yielding traits into genetic backgrounds which already elicited altered starch structure, will:
- Reduce production costs, bringing benefits to both producers and consumers;
- Reduce post-harvest chemical processing costs; and
- 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:
- 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;
- reduction in the amount of land needed to achieve the same output as at present, allowing land to be taken out of production and put to use for conservation and leisure purposes; and
- lower transport and energy costs associated with reduced inputs.

Producing starches with altered characteristics in planta will:
- significantly aid reduction in post-harvest chemical processing, reducing energy demands; and
- 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:
- tailoring of crops more precisely to man's needs;
- 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; and
- opportunity for technology interaction and scientific exchange between the partners.

Michael J. EMES
Victoria University of Manchester-School of Biological Sciences
Tel.: +44 1612 753899
Fax: +44 1612 753938

  Ekkerhard NEUHAUS
Universitšt Kaiserslautern-Pflanzenphysiologie
Tel.: +49 6312052398
Fax: +49 631 2052600
  Amedeo ALPI
Universitŗ degli Studi di Pisa
Tel.: +39 050542898
Fax: +39 050540296
Universidad Publica de Navarra
Mutilva Baja, Navarra
Tel.: +34 948169293
Fax: +34 948232191
Biogemma UK LTD
Tel.: +44 1223 723333
Fax: +44 1223 723330
Tel.: +33 4 73632200
Fax: +33 4 73632210