Inhibition of tiller bud outgrowth in the tin mutant of wheat is associated with precocious internode development
Tillering (branching) is a major yield component and, therefore, a target for improving the yield of crops. However, tillering is regulated by complex interactions of endogenous and environmental signals, and the knowledge required to achieve optimal tiller number through genetic and agronomic means is still lacking. Regulatory mechanisms may be revealed through physiological and molecular characterization of naturally occurring and induced tillering mutants in the major crops. Here we characterize a reduced tillering (tin, for tiller inhibition) mutant of wheat (Triticum aestivum). The reduced tillering in tin is due to early cessation of tiller bud outgrowth during the transition of the shoot apex from the vegetative to the reproductive stage. There was no observed difference in the development of the main stem shoot apex between tin and the wild type. However, tin initiated internode development earlier and, unlike the wild type, the basal internodes in tin were solid rather than hollow. We hypothesize that tin represents a novel type of reduced tillering mutant associated with precocious internode elongation that diverts sucrose (Suc) away from developing tillers. Consistent with this hypothesis, we have observed upregulation of a gene induced by Suc starvation, downregulation of a Suc-inducible gene, and a reduced Suc content in dormant tin buds. The increased expression of the wheat Dormancy-associated (DRM1-like) and Teosinte Branched1 (TB1-like) genes and the reduced expression of cell cycle genes also indicate bud dormancy in tin. These results highlight the significance of Suc in shoot branching and the possibility of optimizing tillering by manipulating the timing of internode elongation. © 2012 American Society of Plant Biologists.