Transgenerational response to high temperature stress in Indian bread wheat cultivar HD2967

The present challenge in wheat breeding is to decipher the molecular mechanisms of heat stress response and thermotolerance in detail for future applications. Several reports indicate the ability of plants to maintain a memory of stress exposure throughout their ontogenesis and even transmit it faithfully to the following generation. Here, three diverse genotypes of wheat viz., HD2967, WR544 and C306 were used for thermotolerance assays. The genotype HD2967 was able to withstand heat stress regimes (37?C and 42?C, 2 hours). Harvested seeds were sown and further raised for two consecutive years and phonotypical data evaluated in natural field condition by exposing to heat stress during generative stages in a heat trap chamber. Maximum tiller numbers and flag leaf length were noticed in second generation plant of 37?C heat exposure whereas flag leaf width in second generation 42?C heat exposure relative to the untreated plant. Auricle length showed no difference but plant height was notably increased in the second year in all the heat exposed plants. In grain yield index, ear head length was greater in the second year and fluctuations in grain number was noticed among the heat treated plant with more yields in 42?C and 42?C HTHT in the second year. IRGA and SPAD recording showed high photosynthesis and chlorophyll content in 37?C HTHT. High modulation of transcripts of several genes involved in DNA methylation and heat stress were also observed. The domino effect of heat stress in earlier generation, in this transgenerational analysis, points towards a probable epigenetic effect. Further studies are in progress to confirm and clarify the mechanisms for future manipulation in breeding for thermotolerance.

ICAR NRC Plant Biotechnology
Sushma Khomdram
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