Brachypodium: A Model Temperate Grass


 – Purple False Brome – is a model grass species that is being exploited to provide new information on cereals and biofuel crops. is a small, erect, annual, self‐fertile grass with undemanding growth requirements and a rapid life cycle. has a small genome (∼350 Mbp) and the genomes of several accessions have been sequenced. It has no economic value but comparative genomic approaches have used the smaller genome to identify key cereal genes, which have been difficult to pin down in larger genomes. is readily transformable using ; mutated populations have been developed and genome editing has been demonstrated so that it will be possible to assess the function of any gene. As genome sequencing and assembly becomes ever easier, more scientists will work directly on crops rather than models but is likely to remain useful for functional genomics approaches because of its small size and rapid life cycle.

Key Concepts

  • Brachypodium distachyon is a model for grass and temperate grass species.

  • B. distachyon has one of the smallest genomes in the Gramineae and it has been sequenced and annotated.

  • The genome sequence has been used in comparative genomic approaches to help map key trait in larger genome cereal crops.

  • Several genetic resources have been developed to aid elucidating gene function including mutagenised populations.

  • B. distachyon has been used to give insights into cell wall construction, seed development and responses to environmental stress.

Keywords: Brachypodium distachyon ; grass model; comparative genomics; functional genomics; stress tolerance and seed development

Figure 1. The model grass species Brachypodium distachyon. (a) Brachypodium distachyon growing in a field in Northern Spain. A 1‐euro coin is included to provide scale (b) B. distachyon grown under controlled environmental conditions for 3 months and removed from the soil before photography. (c) Detail of the racemose inflorescence in B. distachyon.


Ayliffe M , Singh R , Lagudah E (2008) Durable resistance to wheat stem rust needed. Current Opinion Plant Biology 11 (2): 187–192.

Barbieri M , Marcel TC , Niks RE , et al. (2012) QTLs for resistance to the false brome rust Puccinia brachypodii in the model grass Brachypodium distachyon L. Genome 55: 152–163.

Bevan MW , Garvin DF and Vogel JP (2010) Brachypodium distachyon genomics for sustainable food and fuel production. Current Opinion in Biotechnology 21: 211–217.

Bouvier d'Yvoire M , Bouchabke‐Coussa O , Voorend W , et al. (2013) Disrupting the cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase 1 gene (BdCAD1) leads to altered lignification and improved saccharification in Brachypodium distachyon . Plant Journal 73: 496–508.

Bradford KJ and Nonogaki H (2007) Seed development, dormancy and germination. Ames, IA: Blackwell Pub.

Breen J , Wicker T , Shatalina M , et al. (2013) A physical map of the short arm of wheat chromosome 1A. PLoS One 8: e80272.

Cao J , Schneeberger K , Ossowski S , et al. (2011) Whole‐genome sequencing of multiple Arabidopsis thaliana populations. Nature Genetics 43: 956–960.

Catalan P , Shi Y , Armstrong L , Draper J and Stace CA (1995) Molecular Phylogeny of the Grass Genus Brachypodium P‐Beauv Based on Rflp and Rapd Analysis. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 117: 263–280.

Catalan P , Kellogg EA and Olmstead RG (1997) Phylogeny of Poaceae subfamily Pooideae based on chloroplast ndhF gene sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 8: 150–166.

Catalan P and Olmstead RG (2000) Phylogenetic reconstruction of the genus Branchypodium P‐Beauv. (Poaceae) from combined sequences of chloroplast ndhF gene and nuclear ITS. Plant Systematics and Evolution 220: 1–19.

Catalan P , Muller J , Hasterok R , et al. (2012) Evolution and taxonomic split of the model grass Brachypodium distachyon . Annals of Botany 109: 385–405.

Chen F and Dixon RA (2007) Lignin modification improves fermentable sugar yields for biofuel production. Nature Biotechnology 25 (7): 759–761.

Christensen U , Alonso‐Simon A , Scheller HV , Willats WG , Harholt J . (2010). Characterization of the primary cell walls of seedlings of Brachypodium distachyon—a potential model plant for temperate grasses. Phytochemistry 71 (1): 62–69.

Dalmais M , Antelme S , Ho‐Yue‐Kuang S , et al. (2013) A TILLING platform for functional genomics in Brachypodium distachyon . PLoS One 8: e65503.

Demircan T and Akkaya MS (2010) Virus induced gene silencing in Brachypodium distachyon, a model organism for cereals. Plant Cell Tissue and Organ Culture 100: 91–96.

Devos KM (2010) Grass genome organization and evolution. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 13: 139–145.

Draper J , Mur LA , Jenkins G , et al. (2001) Brachypodium distachyon. A new model system for functional genomics in grasses. Plant Physiology 127: 1539–1555.

Faris JD , Zhang ZC , Fellers JP and Gill BS (2008) Micro‐colinearity between rice, Brachypodium, and Triticum monococcum at the wheat domestication locus Q. Functional & Integrative Genomics 8: 149–164.

Figueroa M , Alderman S , Garvin DF and Pfender WF (2013) Infection of Brachypodium distachyon by formae speciales of Puccinia graminis: early infection events and host‐pathogen incompatibility. PLoS One 8: e56857.

Gomez LD , Steele‐King CG and McQueen‐Mason SJ (2008a) Sustainable liquid biofuels from biomass: the writing's on the walls. New Phytologist 178 (3): 473–85.

Gomez LD , Bristow JK , Statham ER , and McQueen‐Mason SJ (2008b) Analysis of saccharification in Brachypodium distachyon stems under mild conditions of hydrolysis. Biotechnology for Biofuels 1 (1): 15.

Gordon SP , Priest H , Des Marais DL , et al. (2014) Genome diversity in Brachypodium distachyon: deep sequencing of highly diverse inbred lines. The Plant Journal 79 (3): 361–374.

Griffiths S , Sharp R , Foote TN , et al. (2006) Molecular characterization of Ph1 as a major chromosome pairing locus in polyploid wheat. Nature 439: 749–752.

Hall A (2008) People, plants & genes: the story of crops and humanity. Antiquity 82 (316): 505–506.

Handakumbura PP , Matos DA , Osmont KS , et al. (2013) Perturbation of Brachypodium distachyon CELLULOSE SYNTHASE A4 or 7 results in abnormal cell walls. BMC Plant Biology 13: 131.

Hasterok R , Marasek A , Donnison IS , et al. (2006) Alignment of the genomes of Brachypodium distachyon and temperate cereals and grasses using bacterial artificial chromosome landing with fluorescence in situ hybridization. Genetics 173: 349–362.

Jenkins G , Mur L , Bablak P , Hasterok R and Draper J (2005) Prospects for functional genomics in a new model grass. Plant Functional Genomics. Binghamton: Haworth Press, pp. 305–325.

Kaul S , Koo HL , Jenkins J , et al. (2000) Analysis of the genome sequence of the flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Nature 408: 796–815.

Lapierre C (2010). Determining lignin structure by chemical degradations. In: C. Heitner , D. Dimmel , and J.A. Schmidt , (eds). Lignin and Lignans – Advances in Chemistry, pp. 11–48. Boca Raton, USA: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group.

Meyerowitz EM (1989) Arabidopsis, a useful weed. Cell 56: 263–269.

Opanowicz M , Vain P , Draper J , Parker D and Doonan JH (2008) Brachypodium distachyon: making hay with a wild grass. Trends in Plant Science 13: 172–177.

Opanowicz M , Hands P , Betts D , et al. (2011) Endosperm development in Brachypodium distachyon . Journal of Experimental Botany 62: 735–748.

Peraldi A , Beccari G , Steed A and Nicholson P (2011) Brachypodium distachyon: a new pathosystem to study Fusarium head blight and other Fusarium diseases of wheat. BMC Plant Biology 11: 100.

Poppenberger B , Berthiller F , Lucyshyn D , et al. (2003) Detoxification of the Fusarium mycotoxin deoxynivalenol by a UDP‐glucosyltransferase from Arabidopsis thaliana. Journal of Biological Chemistry 278 (48): 47905–47914.

Priest HD , Fox SE , Rowley ER , et al. (2014) Analysis of global gene expression in Brachypodium distachyon reveals extensive network plasticity in response to abiotic stress. PLoS One 9: e87499.

Robertson IH (1981) Chromosome‐numbers in Brachypodium Beauv (Gramineae). Genetica 56: 55–60.

Sandoya GV and Buanafina MMD (2014) Differential responses of Brachypodium distachyon genotypes to insect and fungal pathogens. Physiological and Molecular Plant Pathology 85: 53–64.

Schmitz RJ , Schultz MD , Urich MA , et al. (2013) Patterns of population epigenomic diversity. Nature 495: 193–198.

Trafford K , Haleux P , Henderson M , et al. (2013) Grain development in Brachypodium and other grasses: possible interactions between cell expansion, starch deposition, and cell‐wall synthesis. Journal of Experimental Botany 64: 5033–5047.

Van Hulle S , Roldán‐Ruiz I , Van Bockstaele E and Muylle H (2010) Functional Analysis of Genes Involved in Cell Wall Biosynthesis of the Model Species Brachypodium distachyon to Improve Saccharification. In: Huyghe C , (ed). Sustainable use of Genetic Diversity in Forage and Turf Breeding. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer; 479–482.

vanKammen A (1997) Virus‐induced gene silencing in infected and transgenic plants. Trends in Plant Science 2: 409–411.

Vogel CJ , Mayer K , and Rokhsar D , et al. (2009) Brachypodium distachyon: a New Model for Biomass Crops. In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology-Animal 45: S6–S6.

Vogel JP , Garvin DF , Mockler TC , et al. (2010) Genome sequencing and analysis of the model grass Brachypodium distachyon . Nature 463: 763–768.

Wang Z , Cui Y , Chen Y , et al. (2014) Comparative genetic mapping and genomic region collinearity analysis of the powdery mildew resistance gene Pm41. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 127: 1741–1751.

Zhang X , Han D , Zeng Q , et al. (2013) Fine mapping of wheat stripe rust resistance gene Yr26 based on collinearity of wheat with Brachypodium distachyon and rice. PLoS One 8: e57885.

Further Reading

Brkljacic J , Grotewold E , Scholl R , et al. (2011) Brachypodium as a model for the grasses: today and the future. Plant Physiology 157 (1): 3–13.

Catalan P , Chalhoub B , Chochois V , et al. (2014) Update on the genomics and basic biology of Brachypodium: International Brachypodium Initiative (IBI). Trends in Plant Science 19 (7): 414–418.

Garvin DF , Gu YQ , Hasterok R , et al. (2008) Development of genetic and genomic research resources for Brachypodium distachyon, a new model system for grass crop research. Crop Science 48: S69–S84.

Mur LA , Allainguillaume J , Catalan P , et al. (2011) Exploiting the Brachypodium Tool Box in cereal and grass research. New Phytologist 191 (2): 334–347.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Mur, Luis AJ, Corke, Fiona MK, and Doonan, John H(Jan 2015) Brachypodium: A Model Temperate Grass. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0023752]