Scientists have discovered new genes that regulate the elongation of cotton fibers

Gene editing technology was used to identify the GhMAH1 gene that affects the elongation of cotton fibers. Courtesy of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences

Cotton is an important natural fibre crop in the world. Upland cotton and sea island cotton (also known as long-staple cotton) are the two main cultivation tetraploid cotton species of cotton, and inter-species hybridization provides an important resource for the improvement of cotton fiber length traits, but the genetic mechanism of dynamic fiber elongation in land-sea populations has rarely been reported. Therefore, the study of the genetic variation of the genes expressed during the rapid elongation period of cotton fibers and the dynamic regulation of important genes has important guiding significance for the analysis of the mechanism of cotton fiber elongation and the genetic improvement of fiber length.

Recently, the cotton molecular genetic improvement team of the Cotton Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the cotton high-yield breeding team and the foreign scientific research units have carried out the expression regulation of genes related to the dynamic elongation of cotton fibers and the identification of new alleles, constructed a regulatory network of fiber elongation-related genes, and revealed the molecular mechanism of new alleles potentially regulating the length of cotton fibers. The results were published in the Plant Biotechnology Journal.

The research team constructed a backcrossing inbred line population using 36 in upland cotton and 7124 in Haidao cotton, and carried out genome resequencing analysis of 191 offspring and transcriptome data analysis of 47 offspring developmental fibers.

The study found that the accumulation of new alleles in the offspring significantly affected the fiber length, and the related new alleles that affected the elongation of the fibers appeared “super-parent” expression in some offspring. The researchers further analyzed the localization of fiber expression genes, plotted a dynamic expression regulation network map of fiber elongation-related genes, and screened out 105 candidate genes that affect fiber elongation, including 15 new alleles.

A alkane hydroxylase gene that regulates fiber elongation in cotton, GhMAH1, was verified by gene editing techniques. The results provide a new idea for analyzing the fiber length variation of cotton land and sea populations, and provide a theoretical basis for cultivating new germplasm of long fiber cotton.

The research has been supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Science and Technology Innovation Project of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. (Source: China Science Daily, Li Chen, Zhang Shichuang)

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