Heat stress during grain filling is considered one of the major abiotic factors influencing wheat grain yield and quality in arid and semi-arid regions. We studied the effect of heat stress on flour quality and grain yield at moderate and continuous heat stress under natural field conditions using 147 lines of wheat multiple synthetic derivatives (MSD) containing Aegilops tauschii introgressions. The study aimed to identify the marker-trait associations (MTAs) for the quality traits and grain yield under heat-stress conditions and identify stress-resilient germplasm-combining traits for good flour quality and grain yield. The MSD lines showed considerable genetic variation for quality traits and grain yield under heat-stress conditions; some lines performed better than the recurrent parent, Norin 61. We identified two MSD lines that consistently maintained relative performance (RP) values above 100% for grain yield and dough strength. We found the presence of three high-molecular-weight glutenin subunits (HMW-GSs) at the Glu-D1 locus derived from Ae. tauschii, which were associated with stable dough strength across the four environments used in this study. These HMW-GSs could be potentially useful in applications for future improvements of end-use quality traits targeting wheat under severe heat stress. A total of 19,155 high-quality SNP markers were used for the genome-wide association analysis and 251 MTAs were identified, most of them on the D genome, confirming the power of the MSD panel as a platform for mining and exploring the genes of Ae. tauschii. We identified the MTAs for dough strength under heat stress, which simultaneously control grain yield and relative performance for dough strength under heat-stress/optimum conditions. This study proved that Ae. tauschii is an inexhaustible resource for genetic mining, and the identified lines and pleiotropic MTAs reported in this study are considered a good resource for the development of resilient wheat cultivars that combine both good flour quality and grain yield under stress conditions using marker-assisted selection.
Keywords: Aegilops tauschii; dough strength; genetic diversity; heat tolerant; heat-resilient genotypes; hot environment; protein content.