AWC - Funded Research

A Comparative Genomics Approach to Improve Doubled Haploid Breeding for Common and Durum Wheat

AWC Contribution: $150,000


Our aim is to develop a more efficient doubled haploid (DH) production process through utilization of isolated microspore culture. Comparative genomics will be applied to screen for important factors critical to the production of DH plants from microspores. Response to chemical inhibition of histone deacetylase will be compared between common wheat, durum wheat and barley looking for genes important for embryo induction. Identified genes will be evaluated using the dCas9-activator technology.


  1. Document at the cellular level improvements to DH production through microspores mediated by the histone deacetylase inhibitor TSA.
  2. Identify genes involved in microspore embryogenesis through comparative genomics.
  3. Reprogram microspore using dCas9-activator technology targeting embryogenesis genes to increase the rate of green plant formation to 50 green plants per spike.
  4. Transfer technology to the breeding programs and production labs for implementation.


Benefits to producers:

The Canadian wheat growers need improved wheat cultivars, developed faster and with more precision for desired traits. Although doubled haploid (DH) technologies eliminate heterozygosity in one generation, they are not yet broadly used in breeding programs. Limiting factors include access to a DH production lab, cost of DH production, and variance in efficiency due to genotypes. Addressing these limitations will result in a broader adoption of these technologies and contribute to development of new wheat cultivars adapted to production challenges and market needs. The technological improvements we aim for in this proposed research will bring significant savings in time, labor, costs associated with nursery preparation and creation of populations of fixed lines. This project will generate tools for the breeders to create and select more genetic material in the same amount of time, with the same amount of resources, to increase the rate of genetic gain and ensure that the new genotypes are the best possible products for the Canadian wheat industry. All aspects of the value chain will benefit, including farmers, grain handling companies, millers, end-users, and consumers. Improved lines will ensure competitiveness of Canadian wheat on the export market.



Dr. John Laurie is a Research Scientist with AAFC-Lethbridge. He is from the Edmonton area and prior to joining AAFC, did postdoctoral research in the U.S.A. and at the University of Cambridge in England. John holds a PhD in Botany from the University of British Columbia and is an expert in plant and fungal genomics. His current research efforts are focused on improving cereals using biotechnology, but in a broader sense, John is interested in natural processes driving genetic variation in nature.