Genetics of tillering in rice and barley

Ahmed Hussien, Elahe Tavakol, David S. Horner, María Muñoz-Amatriaín, Gary J. Muehlbauer, Laura Rossini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Tillering, or the production of lateral branches (i.e., culms), is an important agronomic trait that determines shoot architecture and grain production in grasses. Shoot architecture is based on the actions of the apical and axillary meristems (AXMs). The shoot apical meristem (SAM) produces all aboveground organs, including AXMs, leaves, stems, and inflorescences. In grasses like rice (Oryza sativa L.) and barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), vegetative AXMs form in the leaf axil of lower leaves of the plant and produce tillers (branches). Tiller development is characterized by three stages, including (i) AXM initiation, (ii) bud development, and (iii) outgrowth of the axillary bud into a tiller. Each tiller has the potential to produce a seed-bearing inflorescence and, hence, increase yield. However, a balance between number and vigor of tillers is required, as unproductive tillers consume nutrients and can lead to a decreased grain production. Because of its agronomic and biological importance, tillering has been widely studied, and numerous works demonstrate that the control of AXM initiation, bud development, and tillering in the grasses is via a suite of genes, hormones, and environmental conditions. In this review, we describe the genes and hormones that control tillering in two key cereal crops, rice and barley. In addition, we discuss how the development of new genomics tools and approaches, coupled with the synteny between the rice and barley genomes, are accelerating the isolation of barley genes underlying tillering phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPlant Genome
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


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