Fructans are prebiotics, with potentially beneficial effects on human health. This study aimed to examine genetic variation in wheat grain fructan content using a simplified analytical method. The method involves extracting fructans from wheat grain followed by enzymatic hydrolysis to break down fructans into monosaccharides that can then be quantitatively measured by anion-exchange liquid chromatography coupled with pulsed amperometric detection. The modified procedure is reliable and allows the handling of large numbers of flour samples at a low cost, and could therefore be useful for assessing large numbers of wheat breeding lines. Using this method, grain samples taken from 19 bread wheat cultivars and breeding lines grown in both glasshouse and the field were analysed for grain fructan content. In addition, grain samples of 29 international wheat landraces and 14 new wheat breeding lines from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) were surveyed for their fructan contents. There was significant genotypic variation among these materials, with grain fructan content ranging from 0.7 to 2.9% of grain dry weight. There was no evidence of strong genotype-by-environment interaction; the fructan contents of field-grown grain samples were positively correlated (r = 0.83) with those of glasshouse-grown samples of the same cultivars. It should therefore be possible to investigate the genetic control of variation for this trait using the simplified HPLC method and to select effectively for increased grain fructan content in wheat breeding.
Journal of Cereal Science (2008) 48 (2) 369-378 [doi: 10.1016/j.jcs.2007.10.004]