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Zhongfu Ni, Professor

College of Agronomy and Biotechnology, China Agricultural University

No. 2 West YuanMingYuan Road, Haidian District, Beijing China, 100193

Phone: 86-10-62734421

Email: nizf@cau.edu.cn

Website: http://wheat.cau.edu.cn/faculty/NiZF.html

Research Area: Wheat Molecular Genetics and Breeding



Wheat is one of the most important food crops worldwide, providing approximately 20% of the calories for human. Plant height, grain shape, heading date and spike morphology are crucial agronomical traits that, to a great extent, influence wheat grain yield potential. Our laboratory mainly focuses on the identification and dissection of important quantitative trait loci (QTL) or genes in controlling multiple agronomical traits, with particular interest on grain size, spike morphology and plant height, and further understanding of the genetic interactions, related signaling transduction networks and utilization potentials of these QTL/genes.

In the past ten years, we have made significant efforts on the collection of wheat germplasm, construction of genetic mapping population and generation of EMS mutant libraries. By using these materials, multiple important QTL/genes in controlling plant height, grain shape, heading date and spike morphology have been successfully isolated and functionally analyzed. For instance, we are currently challenged to uncover the precise molecular function of Tasg-D1, the newly cloned “subspecies-forming” gene conferring semispherical grains in Triticum sphaerococcum Perc., and also screen the novel genetic cofactors of Tasg-D1 in integrating brassinosteroids (BR) with other signaling pathways in modulating grain shape and/or size in wheat, predominantly through large-scale mutational analysis followed by the map-based gene cloning. Our long-term objective is to identify and incorporate agronomically useful genetic diversity of these QTL/genes to facilitate the genetic improvement of wheat varieties with high and stable yield potential.

Besides functional dissection of wheat genes, we also perform wheat breeding by combining traditional strategies with modern molecular approaches including marker-assisted selection, transgenic technology and precise genome engineering to develop wheat varieties with desirable characteristics, such as high yield potential, high quality, stress tolerance and disease resistance. To achieve such goal, we are exploring the contract farming model for the production of high-quality tailored wheat flour based on whole industrial chain operation strategy, i.e. from “market needs” to “wheat varieties in demand” and to “end products”, in collaboration with agribusiness companies.


KEY PUBLICATIONS (*contributed equally; #author for correspondence)

1. Cheng X*, Xin M*, Xu R*, Chen Z, Cai W, Chai L, Xu, H, Jia L, Feng Z, Wang Z, Peng H, Yao Y, Hu Z, Guo W, Ni Z#, Sun Q#. (2020). A single amino acid substitution in STKc_GSK3 kinase conferring semispherical grains and its implications for the origin of Triticum sphaerococcum. Plant Cell 32: 923-934.


2. Li L, Qi Z, Chai L, Chen Z, Wang T, Zhang M, You M, Peng H, Yao Y, Hu Z, Xin M, Guo W, Sun Q, Ni Z#. (2020). The semidominant mutation w5 impairs epicuticular wax deposition in common wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). Theor Appl Genet 133: 1213-1225.


3. Chen Z, Cheng X, Chai L, Wang Z, Du D, Wang Z, Bian R, Zhao A, Xin M, Guo W, Hu Z, Peng H, Yao Y, Sun Q, Ni Z#. (2020). Pleiotropic QTL influencing spikelet number and heading date in common wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). Theor Appl Genet 133: 1825-1838.


4. Chen Z, Cheng X, Chai L, Wang Z, Bian R, Li J, Zhao A, Xin M, Guo W, Hu Z, Peng H, Yao Y, Sun Q, Ni Z#. (2019). Dissection of genetic factors underlying grain size and fine mapping of QTgw.cau-7D in common wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). Theor Appl Genet 133: 1-14.


5. Chai L, Chen Z, Bian R, Zhai H, Cheng X, Peng H, Yao Y, Hu Z, Xin M, Guo W, Sun Q, Zhao A#, Ni Z#. (2019). Dissection of two quantitative trait loci with pleiotropic effects on plant height and spike length linked in coupling phase on the short arm of chromosome 2D of common wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). Theor Appl Genet 132: 1815-1831.


6. Zhai H, Feng Z, Du X, Song Y, Liu X, Qi Z, Song L, Li J, Li L, Peng H, Hu Z, Yao Y, Xin M, Xiao S, Sun Q, and Ni Z#. (2018). A novel allele of TaGW2-A1 is located in a finely mapped QTL that increases grain weight but decreases grain number in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). Theor Appl Genet 131: 539-553.


7. Yan L*, Liu Z*, Xu H, Zhang X, Zhao A, Liang F, Xin M, Peng H, Yao Y, Sun Q, Ni Z#. (2018). Transcriptome analysis reveals potential mechanisms for different grain size between natural and resynthesized allohexaploid wheats with near-identical AABB genomes. BMC Plant Biology 18: 28.


8. Wang H*, Hu Z*, Huang K, Han Y, Zhao A, Han H, Song L, Fan C, Li R, Xin M, Peng H, Yao Y, Sun Q, Ni Z#. (2018). Three genomes differentially contribute to the seedling lateral root number in allohexaploid wheat: evidence from phenotype evolution and gene expression. Plant J 95: 976-987.


9. Ni Z, Li H, Zhao Y, Peng H, Hu Z, Xin M, and Sun Q#. (2018). Genetic improvement of heat tolerance in wheat: recent progress in understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms. Crop J 6: 32-41.


10. Zhai H, Feng Z, Li J, Liu X, Xiao S, Ni Z#, Sun Q#. (2016). QTL analysis of spike morphological traits and plant height in winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) using a high-density SNP and SSR-based linkage map. Front Plant Sci 7: 1617.


11. Han Y*, Xin, M*, Huang K, Xu Y, Liu Z, Hu Z, Yao Y, Peng H, Ni Z#, Sun Q#. (2016). Altered expression of TaRSL4 gene by genome interplay shapes root hair length in allopolyploid wheat. New Phytol 209: 721-732.


12. Xing J, Sun Q#, and Ni Z#. (2015). Proteomic patterns associated with heterosis. BBA-Proteins Proteom 1864: 908-915.



















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