Avena sativa L. (2n = 6x = 42, AACCDD genome composition) or common oat is the cereal grain possessing the highest levels of water-soluble seed (1-3,1-4)-β-D-glucan (β-glucan), a hemicellulose important to human health due to its ability to lower serum LDL cholesterol levels. Understanding the mechanisms of β-glucan accumulation in oat endosperm is, consequently, of great interest. We report a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to identify quantitative trait loci (QTLs) controlling β-glucan production in oat, identifying 58 significantly associated markers. Synteny with the barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) genome identified four major regions of interest, the CslF and CslH gene families along with UGPase and AGPase as candidate genes. Subgenome-specific expression of the A, C, and D homoeologs of major β-glucan synthase AsCslF6 revealed that AsCslF6_C is the least expressed in all tissue types and time points, with low-β-glucan varieties recording the highest proportion of AsCslF6_C expression. In order to further investigate the candidate genes identified in our GWAS study and gain a greater understanding of the other cell wall polysaccharides that comprise the total fiber content in oat we sought to characterize five additional genes. Accordingly, we cloned and sequenced the three homoeologs of AsUGP and AsAGPS1. AsAGPS1 is the small subunit 1 gene of the enzyme ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase (AGPase), which is responsible for catalyzing the first committed step in the starch biosynthesis pathway through the production of ADP-glucose. AsUGP is the gene the codes for UDP-glucose pyrophosphorylase (UGPase) an enzyme responsible for the reversible production of UDP-glucose (UDPG). UDPG is used directly or indirectly as a precursor for the biosynthesis of cell wall polysaccharides. In high β-glucan mutant line ‘OT3044’ we observed increased expression of AsUGP with a corresponding reduction of AsAGPS1 expression. Similarly, we observed an inverse expression pattern in low-fiber mutant line ‘OT3018’, wherein AsUGP expression was decreased in favor of AsAGPS1 expression. Further, we also found evidence that these changes in both AsUGP and AsAGPS1 expression are due primarily to up- or down-regulation in the A-genome homoeoalleles. Additionally, we characterized genes in the CslC family (CslC4, CslC9) and CslA family (CslA7) responsible for xyloglucan and glucomannan synthesis, respectively. High-fiber line ‘HiFi’ showed the least amount of overall expression of these three genes, raising the possibility that the increased β-glucan is due to a reduction in other hemicelluloses. After analyzing homoeolog-specific expression in multiple genes we observed that the A genome consistently had the most highly expressed homoeoallele, hinting at a universal preference for expression of this subgenome. We present hypotheses regarding multiple points in carbohydrate metabolism having the potential to alter β-glucan content in oat.



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Life Sciences



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β-glucan, genome wide association studies, Avena, CslF6, ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase, UDP-glucose pyrophosphorylase



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