Doubled Haploid Technology Simplifies Gene Research in Wheat

Release Date: 
Monday, January 16, 2012

SAN DIEGO (JAN. 16, 2012) – Chenggen Chu, Ph.D., Director of Heartland Plant Innovation's (HPI's) Advanced Plant Breeding Services, has used Doubled Haploid (DH) technology to identify a novel gene variation that resulted in early flowering in wheat. Dr. Chu presented the findings yesterday at Plant and Animal Genome XX in San Diego – one of the largest scientific meetings in the world.

Winter wheat generally requires vernalization (the cold temperatures of winter) to foster summer growth. Dr. Chu and colleagues in Northern Crop Science Laboratory of USDA-ARS in Fargo, ND, North Dakota State University and Oklahoma State University used DH techniques to rapidly identify a mutation that turns winter wheat into spring wheat. The mutation involves insertion of a retrotransposon (a genetic element that can hop to new locations in DNA) in the wheat vernalization gene VRN-B1. The insertion leads to winter wheat turning into spring wheat.

This work shows how DH techniques can be used to rapidly discover similar retrotransposon insertions in the wheat genes of interest to researchers.

"This work reveals important information about the evolution of the wheat genome and the mechanisms of genetic control for wheat vernalization requirement. We believe that the molecular markers we developed in this research will help wheat breeders develop new varieties of winter and spring wheat." said Dr. Chu. "Also, I want to point out that the doubled haploid (DH) technology is very critical for our finding in this research. Because DH lines are completely homozygous and the traits controlled by recessive gene can be fully expressed, variation that occurred in the recessive gene could be easily identified through our observation. So I would say that using DHs greatly simplified this genetic research."

"Dr. Chu's findings are a great example of the potential of doubled haploid technology," said Forrest Chumley, Ph.D., President and CEO of HPI. "By producing genetically pure plant lines that offer a quick route to new gene combinations, doubled haploid technology can foster rapid development of traits for higher yield, improved quality, disease resistance, or other crop improvements."

Under Dr. Chu's guidance, HPI produces doubled haploid lines on order, starting with customer-provided seeds. The doubled haploid process rapidly yields true-breeding lines that can reliably be tested and selected for specific, desirable improvements. Conventional plant breeding techniques achieve the same objective, but over a much longer time. For winter wheat, the doubled haploid process delivers true breeding wheat lines in just one year, as compared to about six years for conventional methods. The time required for delivering a new winter wheat variety could thus be cut in half, requiring only five or six years as compared to 11 or 12.

About Heartland Plant Innovations

Founded in 2009 through collaboration of public and private partners, including Kansas Wheat, Kansas State University, the University of Kansas, and a number of private investors, HPI is developing advanced technologies for gene discovery, trait validation and crop improvement in order to deliver new products and production platforms. HPI has received critical startup funding through the Life Science Center of Innovation Program at the Kansas Bioscience Authority. The global research team associated with HPI focuses on emerging commercial opportunities for wheat and sorghum – areas in which Kansas has world-renowned leadership and expertise. To learn more, visit