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1.  Insight into durum wheat Lpx-B1: a small gene family coding for the lipoxygenase responsible for carotenoid bleaching in mature grains 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:263.
The yellow colour of pasta products is one of the main criteria used by consumers to assess pasta quality. This character is due to the presence of carotenoid pigments in semolina. During pasta processing, oxidative degradation of carotenoid pigments occurs mainly due to lipoxygenase (LOX). In durum wheat (Triticum durum Desf.), two Lpx-1 genes have been identified on chromosome 4B, Lpx-B1.1 and Lpx-B1.2, and evidences have been reported that the deletion of Lpx-B1.1 is associated with a strong reduction in LOX activity in semolina. In the present study, we characterised the Lpx-B1 gene family identified in a durum wheat germplasm collection and related the distribution and expression of the Lpx-B1 genes and alleles to variations in LOX activity in the mature grains.
In addition to the already known Lpx-B1.1 and Lpx-B1.2 genes, a new gene was identified, Lpx-B1.3, along with three different Lpx-B1.1 alleles, Lpx-B1.1a, Lpx-B1.1b and the partially deleted Lpx-B1.1c. Screening of the germplasm collection showed that all of the genotypes have one of the three Lpx-B1.1 alleles, associated with either Lpx-B1.2 or Lpx-B1.3, thus showing that in this collection the two genes are alternatives. Therefore, based on Lpx-B1 distribution, three different haplotypes were distinguished: haplotype I, carrying Lpx-B1.3 and the Lpx-B1.1b allele; haplotype II carrying Lpx-B1.2 and the Lpx-B1.1a allele; and haplotype III carrying Lpx-B1.2 and the Lpx-B1.1c allele. Determination of Lpx-B1 transcript abundance and total LOX activity in mature grains revealed differences among these three haplotypes: haplotypes I, II and III showed high, intermediate and low levels, respectively, of functional Lpx-B1 transcripts and enzymatic activity.
In this germplasm collection, the Lpx-B1 gene family accounts for most of the total LOX activity in the mature grains. Information on these Lpx-B1 haplotypes provides significant improvement for prediction of LOX-1 activity levels in mature grains, and will therefore help in breeding programmes aimed at selection of new durum wheat genotypes with higher carotenoid contents in their end products.
PMCID: PMC3017847  PMID: 21110856
2.  Adaptation and diversity along an altitudinal gradient in Ethiopian barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) landraces revealed by molecular analysis 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:121.
Among the cereal crops, barley is the species with the greatest adaptability to a wide range of environments. To determine the level and structure of genetic diversity in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) landraces from the central highlands of Ethiopia, we have examined the molecular variation at seven nuclear microsatellite loci.
A total of 106 landrace populations were sampled in the two growing seasons (Meher and Belg; the long and short rainy seasons, respectively), across three districts (Ankober, Mojanawadera and Tarmaber), and within each district along an altitudinal gradient (from 1,798 to 3,324 m a.s.l). Overall, although significant, the divergence (e.g. FST) is very low between seasons and geographical districts, while it is high between different classes of altitude. Selection for adaptation to different altitudes appears to be the main factor that has determined the observed clinal variation, along with population-size effects.
Our data show that barley landraces from Ethiopia are constituted by highly variable local populations (farmer's fields) that have large within-population diversity. These landraces are also shown to be locally adapted, with the major driving force that has shaped their population structure being consistent with selection for adaptation along an altitudinal gradient. Overall, our study highlights the potential of such landraces as a source of useful alleles. Furthermore, these landraces also represent an ideal system to study the processes of adaptation and for the identification of genes and genomic regions that have adaptive roles in crop species.
PMCID: PMC3095281  PMID: 20565982

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