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.
We characterized allelic variation at barren inflorescence2 (bif2), a maize co-ortholog of the Arabidopsis PINOID protein kinase (PID), and tested for trait associations with bif2 in both an association mapping population of 277 diverse maize inbreds and in the inter-mated B73 x Mo17 (IBM) linkage population. Results from the quantitative analyses were compared with previous reports of bif2 phenotypes in mutagenesis studies. All three approaches (association, linkage, and mutagenesis) detect a significant effect of bif2 on tassel architecture. Association mapping implicates bif2 in an unexpectedly wide range of traits including plant height, node number, leaf length, and flowering time. Linkage mapping finds a significant interaction effect for node number between bif2 and other loci, in keeping with previous reports that bif2;spi1 and Bif2;Bif1 double mutants produce fewer phytomers. The Mo17 allele is associated with a reduced tassel branch zone and shows lower expression than the B73 allele in hybrid B73-Mo17 F(1) inflorescences, consistent with the complete absence of tassel branches in the bif2 knockout mutant. Overall, these data suggest that allelic variation at bif2 affects maize architecture by modulating auxin transport during vegetative and inflorescence development.
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