ABSTRACT

Cereal grain develops from fertilised florets. Alterations in floret and grain development greatly influence grain yield and quality. Despite this, little is known about the underlying genetic control of these processes, especially in key temperate cereals such as barley and wheat. Using a combination of near-isogenic mutant comparisons, gene editing and genetic analyses, we reveal that HvAPETALA2 (HvAP2) controls floret organ identity, floret boundaries, and maternal tissue differentiation and elimination during grain development. These new roles of HvAP2 correlate with changes in grain size and HvAP2-dependent expression of specific HvMADS-box genes, including the B-sister gene, HvMADS29. Consistent with this, gene editing demonstrates that HvMADS29 shares roles with HvAP2 in maternal tissue differentiation. We also discovered that a gain-of-function HvAP2 allele masks changes in floret organ identity and grain size due to loss of barley LAXATUM.A/BLADE-ON-PETIOLE2 (HvBOP2) gene function. Taken together, we reveal novel pleiotropic roles and regulatory interactions for an AP2-like gene controlling floret and grain development in a temperate cereal.

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