Published on Thu Aug 19 2021

Selection for seed size has indirectly shaped specialized metabolite abundance in oat (Avena sativa L.)

Brzozowski, L. J., Hu, H., Campbell, M., Broeckling, C., Caffe-Treml, M., Guterrez, L., Smith, K. P., Sorrells, M. E., Gore, M. A., Janninck, J.-L.

In oats (Avena sativa L.), seed metabolites are of interest for their antioxidant properties and their agronomic role in mitigating disease severity. In a diverse oat germplasm panel spanning a century of breeding, we investigated the degree of variation of these specialized metabolites.

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Abstract

Plant breeding strategies to optimize metabolite profiles are necessary to develop health promoting food crops. In oats (Avena sativa L.), seed metabolites are of interest for their antioxidant properties and their agronomic role in mitigating disease severity, yet have not been a direct target of selection in breeding. In a diverse oat germplasm panel spanning a century of breeding, we investigated the degree of variation of these specialized metabolites and how it has been molded by selection for other traits, like yield components. We also ask if these patterns of variation persist in modern breeding pools. Integrating genomic, transcriptomic, metabolomic and phenotypic analyses for three types of seed specialized metabolites (avenanthramides, avenacins, and avenacosides) we found reduced genetic variation in modern germplasm compared to diverse germplasm, in part due to increased seed size associated with more intensive breeding. Specifically, we found that abundance of avenanthramides increases with seed size, but additional variation is attributable to expression of biosynthetic enzymes, but avenacoside abundance decreases with seed size and plant breeding intensity. Overall, we show that increased seed size associated with plant breeding has uneven effects on the seed metabolome, and broadly contributes to understanding how selection shapes plant specialized metabolism.