Pre-Harvest Sprouting (PHS) is seeds germinating prematurely, and it reduces the grains’ value significantly. Our group has associated AGO4_9 (Argonaute4_9) genes with PHS in both barley and wheat. The AGO4_9 is a member of RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) pathway, which is a regulation mechanism of DNA methylation in plants. Besides, the literatures have shown the intensive methylation events happened during seed development, and demethylation in germination, in model plants. To summary, these indicate the methylation plays a role in dormancy/germination of seeds, and this may determine the difference of various PHS responses in cereals.
My project aims to understand how the RdDM associated with the PHS in details. This work starts with genome-widely identifying RdDM genes. At the same time, I am creating the transgenic barley with RNAi and CRISPR to characterize the RdDM’s role in barley seed dormancy/germination. I would like to find certain methylation events that determines the PHS responses in barley. These can provide not only the new approach to manipulate seeds dormancy/germination, but also the novel markers in the cereals breeding. Eventually, the work can help our agriculture to fight against the growing population and climate changes.