Genome-wide association study reveals the genetic complexity of fructan accumulation patterns in barley grain
We profiled the grain oligosaccharide content of 154 two-row spring barley genotypes and quantified 27 compounds, mainly inulin- and neoseries-type fructans, showing differential abundance. Clustering revealed two profile groups where the 'high' set contained greater amounts of sugar monomers, sucrose, and overall fructans, but lower fructosylraffinose. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) identified a significant association for the variability of two fructan types: neoseries-DP7 and inulin-DP9, which showed increased strength when applying a novel compound ratio-GWAS approach. Gene models within this region included three known fructan biosynthesis genes (fructan:fructan 1-fructosyltransferase, sucrose:sucrose 1-fructosyltransferase, and sucrose:fructan 6-fructosyltransferase). Two other genes in this region, 6(G)-fructosyltransferase and vacuolar invertase1, have not previously been linked to fructan biosynthesis and showed expression patterns distinct from those of the other three genes, including exclusive expression of 6(G)-fructosyltransferase in outer grain tissues at the storage phase. From exome capture data, several single nucleotide polymorphisms related to inulin- and neoseries-type fructan variability were identified in fructan:fructan 1-fructosyltransferase and 6(G)-fructosyltransferase genes. Co-expression analyses uncovered potential regulators of fructan biosynthesis including transcription factors. Our results provide the first scientific evidence for the distinct biosynthesis of neoseries-type fructans during barley grain maturation and reveal novel gene candidates likely to be involved in the differential biosynthesis of various types of fructan in barley.