The expression of cereal grain storage protein (GSP) genes is controlled by a complex network of transcription factors (TFs). Storage protein activator (SPA) is a major TF acting in this network but its specific function in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) remains to be determined. Here we generated an RNAi line in which expression of the three SPA homoeologs was reduced. In this line and its null segregant we analyzed GSP accumulation and expression of GSP and regulatory TF genes under two regimes of nitrogen availability. We show that down regulation of SPA decreases grain protein concentration at maturity under low but not high nitrogen supply. Under low nitrogen supply, the decrease in SPA expression also caused a reduction in the total quantity of GSP per grain and in the ratio of GSP to albumin-globulins, without significantly affecting GSP composition. The slight reduction in GSP gene expression measured in the SPA RNAi line under low nitrogen supply did not entirely account for the more significant decrease in GSP accumulation, suggesting that SPA regulates additional levels of GSP synthesis. Our results demonstrate a clear role of SPA in the regulation of grain nitrogen metabolism when nitrogen is a limiting resource.



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Scientific Reports



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School of Biological and Marine Sciences