Activation of seminal root primordia during wheat domestication reveals underlying mechanisms of plant resilience

Guy Golan, Elisha Hendel, Gabriel E. Méndez Espitia, Nimrod Schwartz, Zvi Peleg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Seminal roots constitute the initial wheat root system and provide the main route for water absorption during early stages of development. Seminal root number (SRN) varies among species. However, the mechanisms through which SRN is controlled and in turn contribute to environmental adaptation are poorly understood. Here, we show that SRN increased upon wheat domestication from 3 to 5 due to the activation of 2 root primordia that are suppressed in wild wheat, a trait controlled by loci expressed in the germinating embryo. Suppression of root primordia did not limit water uptake, indicating that 3 seminal roots is adequate to maintain growth during seedling development. The persistence of roots at their primordial state promoted seedling recovery from water stress through reactivation of suppressed primordia upon rehydration. Our findings suggest that under well-watered conditions, SRN is not a limiting factor, and excessive number of roots may be costly and maladaptive. Following water stress, lack of substantial root system suppresses growth and rapid recovery of the root system is essential for seedling recovery. This study underscores SRN as key adaptive trait that was reshaped upon domestication. The maintenance of roots at their primordial state during seedling development may be regarded as seedling protective mechanism against water stress.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)755-766
Number of pages12
JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • root primordia
  • seedling resilience
  • seminal root number
  • water stress
  • wheat domestication
  • wild emmer wheat


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