BackgroundGrain weight is an important yield component. Selection of advanced lines with heavy grains show high grain sink potentials and strong sink activity, which is an increasingly important objective in wheat breeding programs. Rice OsGS3 has been identified as a major quantitative trait locus for both grain weight and grain size. However, allelic variation of GS3 has not been characterized previously in hexaploid wheat.ResultsWe cloned 2445, 2393, and 2409 bp sequences of the homologs TaGS3-4A, TaGS3-7A, and TaGS3-7D in wheat ‘Changzhi 6406’, a cultivar that shows high grain weight. The TaGS3 genes each contained five exons and four introns, and encoded a deduced protein of 170, 169, and 169 amino acids, respectively. Phylogenetic analysis of plant GS3 protein sequences revealed GS3 to be a monocotyledon-specific gene and the GS3 proteins were resolved into three classes. The length of the atypical Gγ domain and the cysteine-rich region was conserved within each class and not conserved between classes. A single-nucleotide polymorphism in the fifth exon (at position 1907) of TaGS3-7A leads to an amino acid change (ALA/THR) and showed different frequencies in two pools of Chinese wheat accessions representing extremes in grain weight. Association analysis indicated that the TaGS3-7A-A allele was associated with higher grain weight in the natural population. The TaGS3-7A-A allele was favoured in global modern wheat cultivars but the allelic frequency varied among different wheat-production regions of China, which indicated that this allele is of potential utility to improve wheat grain weight in certain wheat-production areas of China.ConclusionsThe novel molecular information on wheat GS3 homologs and the KASP functional marker designed in this study may be useful in marker-assisted breeding for genetic improvement of wheat.