Iron is one of the important micronutrients that is required for crop productivity and yield-related traits. To address the Fe homeostasis in crop plants, multiple transporters belonging to the category of major facilitator superfamily are being explored. In this direction, earlier vacuolar iron transporters (VITs) have been reported and characterized functionally to address biofortification in cereal crops. In the present study, the identification and characterization of new members of vacuolar iron transporter-like proteins (VTL) was performed in wheat. Phylogenetic distribution demonstrated distinct clustering of the identified VTL genes from the previously known VIT genes. Our analysis identifies multiple VTL genes from hexaploid wheat with the highest number genes localized on chromosome 2. Quantitative expression analysis suggests that most of the VTL genes are induced mostly during the Fe surplus condition, thereby reinforcing their role in metal homeostasis. Interestingly, most of the wheat VTL genes were also significantly up-regulated in a tissue-specific manner under Zn, Mn and Cu deficiency. Although, no significant changes in expression of wheat VTL genes were observed in roots under heavy metals, but TaVTL2, TaVTL3 and TaVTL5 were upregulated in the presence of cobalt stress. Overall, this work deals with the detailed characterization of wheat VTL genes that could provide an important genetic framework for addressing metal homeostasis in bread wheat.
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