Accelerated senescence and nitrogen remobilization in flag leaves enhance nitrogen use efficiency in soft red winter wheat


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Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) production requires a large amount of nitrogen (N) supply because growers aim to achieve high grain yield and appropriate grain protein content simultaneously. A comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms that underpin efficient N usage at limited N in wheat can facilitate the development of new N-saving varieties in this major crop. Here, we performed comparative analysis of flag leaf responses to N availability in soft red winter wheat with contrasting N use efficiency (NUE); VA08MAS-369 (high NUE) and VA07W-415 (low NUE). This study demonstrated that accelerated senescence along with enhanced breakdown of protein and starch in flag leaves was correlated with higher grain yield, NUE for grain yield, and NUE for grain protein under N limitation. The more dramatic reductions in flag leaf N compounds and carbohydrate reserves in VA08MAS-369 were linked with significantly elevated expression of genes and enzymes associated with these metabolic pathways in this high NUE genotype. Consistent with the gene expression data, nitrate reductase, glutamine synthetase, and NAD-dependent glutamate dehydrogenase activities were highly induced under limited N in VA08MAS-369. It was previously reported that accelerated senescence contributes to increased grain protein content in wheat under regular N supply. This study provides molecular and physiological evidence that vigorous senescence and N remobilization also benefit grain yield under N deprivation.



Triticum aestivum, nitrogen use efficiency, flag leaf, post-anthesis