Faster cycling Noccaea caerulescens lines developed to study the genetics of metal tolerance and hyperaccumulation

6th Apr 2011

Researchers at the Division of Plant and Crop Sciences at the University of Nottingham recently published a paper  in New Phytologist that describes the development of faster cycling lines of Noccaea caerulescens (alpine pennycress, formerly Thlaspi caerulescens), a member of the Brassicaceae family.

Noccaea caerulescens has long fascinated plant scientists due to its ability to accumulate certain metals (including Zn, and also Cd and Ni) to astonishingly high levels in its leaves (>3% Zn on a dry weight basis) and to colonise metal-rich soils. However, molecular/genetic dissection of hyperaccumulation in this species has been challenging as the species requires vernalisation to flower, with a typical life-cycle of 7–9 months. Using a fast neutron mutagenesis approach, several independent lines which did not require vernalisation to induce flowering were identified from a population of 80,000 M2s. Following two further rounds of selfing, lines with life cycles of ~13 weeks were shown to retain the Zn hyperaccumulation phenotype. These lines should now make it much easier to conduct genetic analysis of hyperaccumulation.

It is hoped that this knowledge will ultimately inform breeding strategies to develop crops with increased levels of beneficial metals (genetic biofortification), or decreased levels of toxic metals, in their edible tissues.

These studies were conducted as part of a wider project on Zn accumulation in Brassicaceae, supported by a BBSRC Studentship (2006-2010, Seosamh Ó Lochlainn). Faster-cycling lines are freely available to the community via the European Arabidopsis Stock Centre (NASC).

Ó Lochlainn S, Fray RG, Hammond JP, King GJ, White PJ, Broadley MR (2011). Generation of nonvernal-obligate, faster-cycling Noccaea caerulescens lines through fast neutron mutagenesis. New Phytologist, 189, 409-414.



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