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Genetic and physical mapping of the earliness per se locus Eps-A (m) 1 in Triticum monococcum identifies EARLY FLOWERING 3 (ELF3) as a candidate gene.


Wheat cultivars exposed to optimal photoperiod and vernalization treatments still exhibit differences in flowering time, referred to as earliness per se (Eps). We previously identified the Eps-A (m) 1 locus from Triticum monococcum and showed that the allele from cultivated accession DV92 significantly delays heading time and increases the number of spikelets per spike relative to the allele from wild accession G3116. Here, we expanded a high-density genetic and physical map of the Eps-A (m) 1 region and identified the wheat ortholog of circadian clock regulator EARLY FLOWERING 3 (ELF3) as a candidate gene. No differences in ELF3 transcript levels were found between near-isogenic lines carrying the DV92 and G3116 Eps-A (m) 1 alleles, but the encoded ELF3 proteins differed in four amino acids. These differences were associated with altered transcription profiles of PIF-like, PPD1, and FT1, which are known downstream targets of ELF3. Tetraploid wheat lines with combined truncation mutations in the A- and B-genome copies of ELF3 flowered earlier and had less spikelets per spike than the wild-type control under short- and long-day conditions. Both effects were stronger in a photoperiod-sensitive than in a reduced photoperiod-sensitive background, indicating a significant epistatic interaction between PPD1 and ELF3 (P < 0.0001). By contrast, the introgression of the T. monococcum chromosome segment carrying the Eps-A (m) 1 allele from DV92 into durum wheat delayed flowering and increased the number of spikelets per spike. Taken together, the above results support the hypothesis that ELF3 is Eps-A (m) 1. The ELF3 alleles identified here provide additional tools to modulate reproductive development in wheat.

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