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Hutton scientist awarded grant to explore genetic pathway to better barley

Dr Isabelle Colas was awarded a New Investigator grant by UKRI
"This research will help demonstrate the first known mechanism controlling recombination in barley and promises to reveal a new way to influence the breeding of large genome crops"

Dr Isabelle Colas, a scientist of the International Barley Hub, has been awarded a New Investigator grant worth £400k by UK Research and Innovation to explore a genetic pathway to improved barley crops, with the ultimate aim of helping breeders develop future varieties suited to the needs of growers and industry.

Barley is the fourth most important cultivated cereal in the world and is used for food, feed, brewing and distilling, but its genetic complexity means that a large portion of the chromosomes rarely recombines when crossing different varieties. This makes between 20 to 30% of genes almost inaccessible to breeders, slowing down the development of new varieties that are more resilient to disease and environmental stress.

Taking advantage of new barley genomic resources and super-resolution microscopy, Dr Isabelle Colas, a plant molecular geneticist based at the James Hutton Institute's Cell and Molecular Sciences department in Dundee, has identified a novel protein, unique to cereals, that may provide a pathway to improved genetic recombination in barley crops.

This protein, present in a family of genes called E3 ubiquitin ligase, has shown to increase recombination of around 50% in all chromosomes, which may help breeders target desirable crop traits such as improved yield or disease resistance. Watch the video below to learn more about genetic recombination.

“The UK is in the top 10 of global barley producers with more than 6 million tons in 2016, and around 30% of the UK crop is malted, supporting the brewing and distilling industries. Our research will ultimately benefit all who live and work in the UK through direct tax return of £3.7bn to the exchequer from the whisky sector alone.

“Increasing crop yield and quality underpins the profitability of these industries and is pivotally dependent upon the development and release of new plant varieties suited to end user demands. This research will help demonstrate the first known mechanism controlling recombination in barley and promises to reveal a new way to influence the breeding of large genome crops such as wheat and rice.

“This is a great personal achievement and I am delighted to be awarded this grant to set up my own lab and progress my career further. It could not have been possible without the support of the James Hutton Institute, senior scientists such as Robbie Waugh (James Hutton Institute), Gordon Simpson (University of Dundee) and of course the peer reviewers and the UKRI funding committee,” Dr Colas said.

The project HvST1: A novel suppressor of recombination in barley is led by the James Hutton Institute and will run from September 2020 to August 2023. It is funded with a £444,384 grant by BBSRC, part of UK Research and Innovation, a public body funded by the UK government.

The International Barley Hub is an initiative of the James Hutton Institute and the University of Dundee which seeks to create a unique, integrated, open platform for the translation of barley research into economic, social, environmental and commercial impacts for the breeding, farming, malting, brewing, feed, food, health and related industries, and has been awarded funding through the Tay Cities Deal. For more information on the Hub, visit its project page.

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Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/hutton-scientist-awarded-grant-explore-genetic-pathway-better-barley on 24/11/20 08:38:03 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.