Letter | Published:

Molecular basis of adaptation to high soil boron in wheat landraces and elite cultivars

Nature volume 514, pages 8891 (02 October 2014) | Download Citation



Environmental constraints severely restrict crop yields in most production environments, and expanding the use of variation will underpin future progress in breeding. In semi-arid environments boron toxicity constrains productivity, and genetic improvement is the only effective strategy for addressing the problem1. Wheat breeders have sought and used available genetic diversity from landraces to maintain yield in these environments; however, the identity of the genes at the major tolerance loci was unknown. Here we describe the identification of near-identical, root-specific boron transporter genes underlying the two major-effect quantitative trait loci for boron tolerance in wheat, Bo1 and Bo4 (ref. 2). We show that tolerance to a high concentration of boron is associated with multiple genomic changes including tetraploid introgression, dispersed gene duplication, and variation in gene structure and transcript level. An allelic series was identified from a panel of bread and durum wheat cultivars and landraces originating from diverse agronomic zones. Our results demonstrate that, during selection, breeders have matched functionally different boron tolerance alleles to specific environments. The characterization of boron tolerance in wheat illustrates the power of the new wheat genomic resources to define key adaptive processes that have underpinned crop improvement.

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Primary accessions

Data deposits

Sequence data are deposited with NCBI GenBank under accession numbers KF148623KF148633 and GF112200GF112209.


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We thank N. Collins, J. Dvorjak, H. Kuchel, D. Mares, S. Wu, the John Innes Centre, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique and the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium for resources, and J. Tiong, T. Oz and A. Pohlen for assistance. The authors are supported by grants from the Australian Research Council, the Grains Research and Development Corporation and the South Australian Government.

Author information

Author notes

    • Margaret Pallotta
    •  & Thorsten Schnurbusch

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, University of Adelaide, Waite Campus, Urrbrae, South Australia 5064, Australia

    • Margaret Pallotta
    • , Thorsten Schnurbusch
    • , Julie Hayes
    • , Alison Hay
    • , Ute Baumann
    • , Peter Langridge
    •  & Tim Sutton
  2. Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK), Genebank Department, Corrensstrasse 3, D-06466 Gatersleben, Germany

    • Thorsten Schnurbusch
  3. School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, University of Adelaide, Waite Campus, Urrbrae, South Australia 5064, Australia

    • Jeff Paull


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M.P., T.Sc., J.H., J.P., P.L. and T.S. designed experiments. M.P., T.Sc., J.H. and A.H. performed experiments. M.P., T.Sc., J.H., A.H., U.B., J.P. and T.S. analysed data. M.P., T.S., J.H. and P.L. wrote the manuscript. T.Sc., U.B. and J.P. commented on the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tim Sutton.

Extended data

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    This file contains a Supplementary Discussion.

Excel files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Table 1

    This table displays PCR markers and probes for genotyping and expression analysis. a, Primer sequences and expected amplicon sizes for PCR markers derived from Bot-B5/D5 which were used for allele typing and Bot-B5 expression analysis. b, primer sequences for probe generation and c, primer sequences for PCR markers used for F2 recombinant screening and semi-quantitative RT-PCR analysis.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Table 2

    This table shows wild and cultivated barleys screened for TaBot-B5b orthologues. Name and source of genotypes screened by Southern analysis with AWW548.

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