Identification and expression of genes controlling seed shattering in Lolium perenne

Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) is a key pasture grass in many parts of the world. It is reported to be the most valuable plant species in New Zealand, with a $14.5 billion impact on New Zealand’s GDP in 2012, due predominantly to perennial ryegrass being a highly valued forage for the livestock industry. However, as a relatively undomesticated species, seed production is negatively impacted by seed shattering (shedding) during harvest. Seed shattering may lead to a seed yield loss of up to 75 % in grass species including perennial ryegrass. Consequently, seed shattering can result in considerable economic losses.

Abscission layer below the base of the seed of perennial ryegrass. Image credit: Fu et al.

In a recent study published in AoBP, Fu et al. used a comparative genomics strategy to isolated eight genes previously linked to seed shattering in several monocot crop species. Quantitative expression profiling indicated that the gene SHATTERING1 (SH1) is likely to be involved in seed shattering in perennial ryegrass. These genes were specifically related to abscission layer formation during seed development. In addition, lignification of the abscission layer may play an important role in the abscission process. The authors suggest that LpSH1 could be targeted via mutagenesis or gene editing to reduce seed shattering in perennial ryegrass.

Researcher highlights

Zeyu Fu

Zeyu Fu (Zack) obtained a BSc in Biological Science from Yantai University in 2011. In 2018 he completed a PhD in Biotechnology, focusing on seed shattering in perennial ryegrass, under the supervision of Professors Paula Jameson and Jiancheng Song at the University of Canterbury. Zack currently holds a research position focusing on downstream bioprocessing for antibody purification at Innovent Biologics of Suzhou, China. He is involved in several projects developing processes for antibody purification. These products will be applied to human clinical trials in the near future. While he has changed his research direction, he still keeps an interest in plant and seed development.

Jiancheng Song is currently a Professor at Yantai University. Previously, he was a professor at Shandong Agricultural University before coming to New Zealand for his PhD. From 2005 to 2013 he worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow/Senior Research Fellow with Professor Jameson at the University of Canterbury, before returning to China as a nominated “Taishan Overseas Chinese Expert” by the Shandong Provincial Government.

Paula Jameson is Professor of Biology at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury. Her research covers many aspects of plant developmental biology. Amongst other projects, her team has been working with the arable industry, with a particular focus on seed development and yield.

Further reading

Fu, Z., Song, J., Zhao, J., & Jameson, P. E. (2018). Identification and expression of genes associated with the abscission layer controlling seed shattering in Lolium perenne. AoB PLANTS, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1093/aobpla/ply076