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Emma Wallington


Improved Root Traits in Wheat.   

We would like to offer a PhD project to study potential improved root traits in wheat, extending published work from other species. The aim is to increase wheat root length, and thus improve water use efficiency, to improve P, N & K uptake and measure the effect on yield.    UpBeat1 encodes a transcription factor which regulates the balance between cellular proliferation and differentiation in the root. In transgenic plants with reduced or abolished expression, a longer root develops (Tsukagoshi et al. 2010). OsPUP encodes a protein kinase, expression of which increases under conditions of phosphate starvation, which increases P, N & K uptake and increases yield. Highly expressing transgenic rice result in a higher dry weight, length and surface area of the rice root, plus a 60% increase in yield above normal levels in low P soils. (Gamuyao et al. 2012).    We have transformed wheat with constructs to constitutively express wheat homologues of Upbeat1 and OsPUP, or to reduce expression of Upbeat (by RNAi-silencing).   

Initially the PhD student would genotype T1 plants to identify homozygous material for detailed phenotyping to determine the effect of these genes in wheat, and develop lines with both beneficial traits. Further constructs for wheat transformation could be made, to further characterise the wheat genes, express OsPUP, employ root specific promoters, or use genome engineering techniques such as TALENS or CRISPR. A non-GM approach could include assessment of diverse wheat germplasm or TILLING populations.


  1. Tsukagoshi et al. 2010  Transcriptional regulation of ROS controls transition from proliferation to differentiation in the root.  Cell 143 (4), 606-616    
  2. Gamuyao et al. 2012  The protein kinase Pstol1 from traditional rice confers tolerance of phosphorus deficiency  Nature 488, 535-539

Second supervisor:

Uta Paszkowski

We would also collaborate with Martin Broadley, University of Nottingham.