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JIC geneticists find pea quality controls

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11 March 2011

Legumes, such as peas, are an economically important source of protein for food and animal feed, and there has been a constant drive to improve the content and quality of protein in these crops. Targeted breeding programmes have faced difficulties, due to the complex genetic basis for these traits. Recent research by Claire Domoney's group, supported by the Defra-funded Pulse Crop Genetic Improvement Network (PGIN) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has uncovered some of the genetic controls that determine these qualities, which could provide robust genetic markers for future breeding programmes and so contribute to future food security.

For animal feed, digestibility is an important trait, and previous work by Dr Domoney and colleagues mapped a genetic location in Pisum sativum (peas), called the Tri locus, that has an important role in determining this. Using material from the John Innes germplasm collection they produced nearly identical lines, differing only in the region around the Tri locus. In subsequent work with these near isogenic lines (NILs) they also found that there was a difference in the nitrogen content. This was found to be an effect of a linked genetic region, the Vc-2 locus.

Vc-2 is involved in producing vicilin, the major storage protein in peas. Analysis of the near-isogenic lines showed that when one of a number of related genes at the Vc-2 locus is disrupted the protein content in the seed was lower. This research facilitates the use of robust and reliable genetic markers for the Tri and Vc-2 loci that will accelerate breeding for quality and composition of protein in pea seeds.


Notes to editors

Reference: The genetic control of seed quality traits: effects of allelic variation at the Tri and Vc-2 genetic loci in Pisum sativum L. C. Chinoy, T. Welham, L. Turner, C. Moreau and C. Domoney Euphytica (2011) doi 10.1007/s10681-011-0363-8

Funding: Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) projects AR0105 and AR0711, the Pulse Crop Genetic Improvement Network, BBSRC, UK

About JIC

The John Innes Centre (JIC),, is an independent, world-leading research centre in plant and microbial sciences with over 800 staff. JIC is based on Norwich Research Park and carries out high quality fundamental, strategic and applied research to understand how plants and microbes work at the molecular, cellular and genetic levels. The JIC also trains scientists and students, collaborates with many other research laboratories and communicates its science to end-users and the general public. The JIC is grant-aided by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.


BBSRC is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £470M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the UK and beyond and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders, including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

BBSRC provides institute strategic research grants to the following:

  • The Babraham Institute
  • Institute for Animal Health
  • Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (Aberystwyth University)
  • Institute of Food Research
  • John Innes Centre
  • The Genome Analysis Centre
  • The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh)
  • Rothamsted Research

The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.