Grain protein content (GPC) of durum wheat (Triticum turgidum L. var. durum) is an important trait for the nutritional value of grain and for influencing the technological property of flour. Protein content is a quantitative trait negatively correlated with grain yield, thus increase in protein quantity usually results in yield reduction. This study was initiated to introgress alleles for high GPC from var. dicoccoides into durum wheat germplasm by the backcross inbred line (BIL) method and to identify molecular markers linked to high GPC alleles not associated with depressing effects on yield. The backcross line 3BIL-85 with high GPC and similar grain yield to the recurrent parent was backcrossed to Latino, and the generations F2, F3 and F4 were evaluated for GPC and yield per spike (GYS) in three field trials. Three QTLs with major effects on GPC were detected on chromosome arms 2AS, 6AS and 7BL, identified by the markers Xcfa2164, XP39M37 (250) and Xgwm577, respectively. Multiple regression analysis indicated that the three QTLs explained all the genetic variances of the trait. The high GPC parental line 3BIL-85 was not significantly different from the recurrent parent Latino for GYS, but the phenotypic correlation coefficient between GPC and GYS had negative values (from -0.02 to -0.28) in each trial, although it was statistically significant only in the F3 progeny trial. No co-located QTL for GYS was detected, excluding the hypothesis that the putative QTLs for GPC were indirect QTLs for low grain yield. The negative protein-yield response could be due to: (a) co-location of grain yield per spike QTLs with reduced phenotypic effects not detectable by the experimental design or statistical procedures, or to (b) opposite pleiotropic gene effects due to the major bio-energetic requirements for synthesis of protein then carbohydrates. Mapping loci by BILs should enable the production of near-isogenic lines in which the individual effects of each QTL can be examined in detail without confounding variations due to other putative QTLs.