Brachypodium: a promising hub between model species and cereals

J Exp Bot. 2014 Oct;65(19):5683-96. doi: 10.1093/jxb/eru376.


Brachypodium distachyon was proposed as a model species for genetics and molecular genomics in cereals less than 10 years ago. It is now established as a standard for research on C3 cereals on a variety of topics, due to its close phylogenetic relationship with Triticeae crops such as wheat and barley, and to its simple genome, its minimal growth requirement, and its short life cycle. In this review, we first highlight the tools and resources for Brachypodium that are currently being developed and made available by the international community. We subsequently describe how this species has been used for comparative genomic studies together with cereal crops, before illustrating major research fields in which Brachypodium has been successfully used as a model: cell wall synthesis, plant-pathogen interactions, root architecture, and seed development. Finally, we discuss the usefulness of research on Brachypodium in order to improve nitrogen use efficiency in cereals, with the aim of reducing the amount of applied fertilizer while increasing the grain yield. Several paths are considered, namely an improvement of either nitrogen remobilization from the vegetative organs, nitrate uptake from the soil, or nitrate assimilation by the plant. Altogether, these examples position the research on Brachypodium as at an intermediate stage between basic research, carried out mainly in Arabidopsis, and applied research carried out on wheat and barley, enabling a complementarity of the studies and reciprocal benefits.

Keywords: Barley; Brachypodium; cell wall; genomics; nitrogen use efficiency; plant pathogens; roots; seeds; wheat..

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brachypodium / genetics*
  • Brachypodium / metabolism
  • Cell Wall / metabolism
  • Crops, Agricultural / genetics*
  • Crops, Agricultural / metabolism
  • Edible Grain / genetics
  • Genome, Plant / genetics*
  • Genomics*
  • Hordeum / genetics
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Models, Biological
  • Nitrogen / metabolism*
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Roots / genetics
  • Seeds / genetics
  • Triticum / genetics


  • Nitrogen