Understanding the genetic basis of nitrogen and carbon metabolism will accelerate the development of plant varieties with high yield and improved nitrogen use efficiency. A robotized platform was used to measure the activities of 10 enzymes from carbon and nitrogen metabolism in the maize (Zea mays) intermated B73 × Mo17 mapping population, which provides almost a 4-fold increase in genetic map distance compared with conventional mapping populations. Seedling/juvenile biomass was included to identify its genetic factors and relationships with enzyme activities. All 10 enzymes showed heritable variation in activity. There were strong positive correlations between activities of different enzymes, indicating that they are coregulated. Negative correlations were detected between biomass and the activity of six enzymes. In total, 73 significant quantitative trait loci (QTL) were found that influence the activity of these 10 enzymes and eight QTL that influence biomass. While some QTL were shared by different enzymes or biomass, we critically evaluated the probability that this may be fortuitous. All enzyme activity QTL were in trans to the known genomic locations of structural genes, except for single cis-QTL for nitrate reductase, Glu dehydrogenase, and shikimate dehydrogenase; the low frequency and low additive magnitude compared with trans-QTL indicate that cis-regulation is relatively unimportant versus trans-regulation. Two-gene epistatic interactions were identified for eight enzymes and for biomass, with three epistatic QTL being shared by two other traits; however, epistasis explained on average only 2.8% of the genetic variance. Overall, this study identifies more QTL at a higher resolution than previous studies of genetic variation in metabolism.
Maize genetic diversity has been used to understand the molecular basis of phenotypic variation and to improve agricultural efficiency and sustainability. We crossed 25 diverse inbred maize lines to the B73 reference line, capturing a total of 136,000 recombination events. Variation for recombination frequencies was observed among families, influenced by local (cis) genetic variation. We identified evidence for numerous minor single-locus effects but little two-locus linkage disequilibrium or segregation distortion, which indicated a limited role for genes with large effects and epistatic interactions on fitness. We observed excess residual heterozygosity in pericentromeric regions, which suggested that selection in inbred lines has been less efficient in these regions because of reduced recombination frequency. This implies that pericentromeric regions may contribute disproportionally to heterosis.
Flowering time is a complex trait that controls adaptation of plants to their local environment in the outcrossing species Zea mays (maize). We dissected variation for flowering time with a set of 5000 recombinant inbred lines (maize Nested Association Mapping population, NAM). Nearly a million plants were assayed in eight environments but showed no evidence for any single large-effect quantitative trait loci (QTLs). Instead, we identified evidence for numerous small-effect QTLs shared among families; however, allelic effects differ across founder lines. We identified no individual QTLs at which allelic effects are determined by geographic origin or large effects for epistasis or environmental interactions. Thus, a simple additive model accurately predicts flowering time for maize, in contrast to the genetic architecture observed in the selfing plant species rice and Arabidopsis.
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