Swedish spring wheat varieties with the rare high grain protein allele of NAM-B1 differ in leaf senescence and grain mineral content

PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e59704. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059704. Epub 2013 Mar 21.


Some Swedish spring wheat varieties have recently been shown to carry a rare wildtype (wt) allele of the gene NAM-B1, known to affect leaf senescence and nutrient retranslocation to the grain. The wt allele is believed to increase grain protein concentration and has attracted interest from breeders since it could contribute to higher grain quality and more nitrogen-efficient varieties. This study investigated whether Swedish varieties with the wt allele differ from varieties with one of the more common, non-functional alleles in order to examine the effect of the gene in a wide genetic background, and possibly explain why the allele has been retained in Swedish varieties. Forty varieties of spring wheat differing in NAM-B1 allele type were cultivated under controlled conditions. Senescence was monitored and grains were harvested and analyzed for mineral nutrient concentration. Varieties with the wt allele reached anthesis earlier and completed senescence faster than varieties with the non-functional allele. The wt varieties also had more ears, lighter grains and higher yields of P and K. Contrary to previous information on effects of the wt allele, our wt varieties did not have increased grain N concentration or grain N yield. In addition, temporal studies showed that straw length has decreased but grain N yield has remained unaffected over a century of Swedish spring wheat breeding. The faster development of wt varieties supports the hypothesis of NAM-B1 being preserved in Fennoscandia, with its short growing season, because of accelerated development conferred by the NAM-B1 wt allele. Although the possible effects of other gene actions were impossible to distinguish, the genetic resource of Fennoscandian spring wheats with the wt NAM-B1 allele is interesting to investigate further for breeding purposes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles*
  • Crops, Agricultural / genetics
  • Crops, Agricultural / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Genes, Plant
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genotype
  • Nitrogen / chemistry
  • Phosphorus / chemistry
  • Plant Leaves / genetics
  • Plant Leaves / physiology*
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / physiology
  • Potassium / chemistry
  • Seasons
  • Seeds / chemistry
  • Seeds / genetics*
  • Sweden
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / physiology
  • Triticum / genetics*
  • Triticum / physiology


  • Plant Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Phosphorus
  • Nitrogen
  • Potassium

Grant support

This study was supported by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.