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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Protein content and HvNAM alleles in Nordic barley (Hordeum vulgare) during a century of breeding

Hagenblad, Jenny; Vanhala, Tytti; Madhavan, Sharmila; Leino, Matti W.


Background Barley has been bred for more than a century in the Nordic countries, with dramatic improvements of yield traits. In this study we investigate if this has come at the cost of lower grain protein and micronutrient (iron, zinc) content, by analysing 80 accessions representing four different improvement stages. We further re-sequenced the two grain protein content associated genes HvNAM-1 and HvNAM-2 in full and performed expression analyses of the same genes to search for genetic associations with nutrient content. Results We found higher thousand grain weight in barley landraces and in accessions from the late improvement group compared to accessions from the mid of the twentieth century. Straw length was much reduced in late stage accessions. No significant temporal decrease in grain protein, iron or zinc content during twentieth century Nordic crop improvement could be detected. Out of the 80 accessions only two deviant HvNAM-1 sequences were found, represented by one accession each. These do not appear to be correlated to grain protein content. The sequence of HvNAM-2 was invariable in all accessions and no correlations between expression levels of HvNAM-1 and HvNAM-2 and with grain protein content was found. Conclusions In contrast to studies in wheat, where a strong negative correlation between straw length and grain protein and micronutrient content has been found, we do not see this relationship in Nordic barley. The last 60 years of breeding has reduced straw length but, contrary to expectations, not protein and micronutrient content. Variation in grain protein and micronutrient content was found among the Nordic barley accessions, but it is not explained by variation of HvNAM genes. This means that HvNAM is an unexploited source of genetic variation for nutrient content in Nordic barley.


HvNAM; Resequencing; Grain protein content; Hordeum vulgare; Crop improvement

Published in

2022, Volume: 159, number: 1, article number: 12
Publisher: BMC

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Genetics and Breeding

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