Identification of QTL with large phenotypic effects conserved across genetic backgrounds and environments is one of the prerequisites for crop improvement using marker assisted selection (MAS). The objectives of this study were to identify meta-QTL (mQTL) for grain yield (GY) and anthesis silking interval (ASI) across 18 bi-parental maize populations evaluated in the same conditions across 2-4 managed water stressed and 3-4 well watered environments.
Drought can cause severe reduction in maize production, and strongly threatens crop yields. To dissect this complex trait and identify superior alleles, 350 tropical and subtropical maize inbred lines were genotyped using a 1536-SNP array developed from drought-related genes and an array of 56,110 random SNPs. The inbred lines were crossed with a common tester, CML312, and the testcrosses were phenotyped for nine traits under well-watered and water-stressed conditions in seven environments. Using genome-wide association mapping with correction for population structure, 42 associated SNPs (P ? 2.25 × 10(-6) 0.1/N) were identified, located in 33 genes for 126 trait × environment × treatment combinations. Of these genes, three were co-localized to drought-related QTL regions. Gene GRMZM2G125777 was strongly associated with ear relative position, hundred kernel weight and timing of male and female flowering, and encodes NAC domain-containing protein 2, a transcription factor expressed in different tissues. These results provide some good information for understanding the genetic basis for drought tolerance and further studies on identified candidate genes should illuminate mechanisms of drought tolerance and provide tools for designing drought-tolerant maize cultivars tailored to different environmental scenarios.
Maize (Zea mays L.) lipoxygenases (ZmLOXs) are well recognized as important players in plant defense against pathogens, especially in cross kingdom lipid communication with pathogenic fungi. This study is among the first to investigate genetic diversity at important gene paralogs ZmLOX4 and ZmLOX5. Sequencing of these genes in 400 diverse maize lines showed little genetic diversity and low linkage disequilibrium in the two genes. Importantly, we identified one inbred line in which ZmLOX5 has a disrupted open reading frame, a line missing ZmLOX5, and five lines with a duplication of ZmLOX5. Tajimas D test suggests that both ZmLOX4 and ZmLOX5 have been under neutral selection. Further investigation of haplotype data revealed that within the ZmLOX family members only ZmLOX12, a monocot specific ZmLOX, showed strong linkage disequilibrium that extends further than expected in maize. Linkage disequilibrium patterns at these loci of interest are crucial for future candidate gene association mapping studies. ZmLOX4 and ZmLOX5 mutations and copy number variants are under further investigation for crop improvement.
A public candidate gene testing pipeline for resistance to aflatoxin accumulation or Aspergillus flavus infection in maize is presented here. The pipeline consists of steps for identifying, testing, and verifying the association of selected maize gene sequences with resistance under field conditions. Resources include a database of genetic and protein sequences associated with the reduction in aflatoxin contamination from previous studies; eight diverse inbred maize lines for polymorphism identification within any maize gene sequence; four Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) mapping populations and one association mapping panel, all phenotyped for aflatoxin accumulation resistance and associated phenotypes; and capacity for Insertion/Deletion (InDel) and SNP genotyping in the population(s) for mapping. To date, ten genes have been identified as possible candidate genes and put through the candidate gene testing pipeline, and results are presented here to demonstrate the utility of the pipeline.
The ratio of saturated to unsaturated fatty acids in maize kernels strongly impacts human and livestock health, but is a complex trait that is difficult to select based on phenotype. Map-based cloning of quantitative trait loci (QTL) is a powerful but time-consuming method for the dissection of complex traits. Here, we combine linkage and association analyses to fine map QTL-Pal9, a QTL influencing levels of palmitic acid, an important class of saturated fatty acid. QTL-Pal9 was mapped to a 90-kb region, in which we identified a candidate gene, Zea mays fatb (Zmfatb), which encodes acyl-ACP thioesterase. An 11-bp insertion in the last exon of Zmfatb decreases palmitic acid content and concentration, leading to an optimization of the ratio of saturated to unsaturated fatty acids while having no effect on total oil content. We used three-dimensional structure analysis to explain the functional mechanism of the ZmFATB protein and confirmed the proposed model in vitro and in vivo. We measured the genetic effect of the functional site in 15 different genetic backgrounds and found a maximum change of 4.57 mg/g palmitic acid content, which accounts for ?20-60% of the variation in the ratio of saturated to unsaturated fatty acids. A PCR-based marker for QTL-Pal9 was developed for marker-assisted selection of nutritionally healthier maize lines. The method presented here provides a new, efficient way to clone QTL, and the cloned palmitic acid QTL sheds lights on the genetic mechanism of oil biosynthesis and targeted maize molecular breeding.
In maize, water stress at flowering causes loss of kernel set and productivity. While changes in the levels of sugars and abscisic acid (ABA) are thought to play a role in this stress response, the mechanistic basis and genes involved are not known. A candidate gene approach was used with association mapping to identify loci involved in accumulation of carbohydrates and ABA metabolites during stress. A panel of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes from these metabolic pathways and in genes for reproductive development and stress response was used to genotype 350 tropical and subtropical maize inbred lines that were well watered or water stressed at flowering. Pre-pollination ears, silks, and leaves were analysed for sugars, starch, proline, ABA, ABA-glucose ester, and phaseic acid. ABA and sugar levels in silks and ears were negatively correlated with their growth. Association mapping with 1229 SNPs in 540 candidate genes identified an SNP in the maize homologue of the Arabidopsis MADS-box gene, PISTILLATA, which was significantly associated with phaseic acid in ears of well-watered plants, and an SNP in pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase, a key regulator of carbon flux into respiration, that was associated with silk sugar concentration. An SNP in an aldehyde oxidase gene was significantly associated with ABA levels in silks of water-stressed plants. Given the short range over which decay of linkage disequilibrium occurs in maize, the results indicate that allelic variation in these genes affects ABA and carbohydrate metabolism in floral tissues during drought.
Aspergillus flavus Link:Fr, an opportunistic fungus that produces aflatoxin, is pathogenic to maize and other oilseed crops. Aflatoxin is a potent carcinogen, and its presence markedly reduces the value of grain. Understanding and enhancing host resistance to A. flavus infection and/or subsequent aflatoxin accumulation is generally considered an efficient means of reducing grain losses to aflatoxin. Different proteomic, genomic and genetic studies of maize (Zea mays L.) have generated large data sets with the goal of identifying genes responsible for conferring resistance to A. flavus, or aflatoxin.
A genome-wide assessment of nucleotide diversity in a polyploid species must minimize the inclusion of homoeologous sequences into diversity estimates and reliably allocate individual haplotypes into their respective genomes. The same requirements complicate the development and deployment of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers in polyploid species. We report here a strategy that satisfies these requirements and deploy it in the sequencing of genes in cultivated hexaploid wheat (Triticum aestivum, genomes AABBDD) and wild tetraploid wheat (Triticum turgidum ssp. dicoccoides, genomes AABB) from the putative site of wheat domestication in Turkey. Data are used to assess the distribution of diversity among and within wheat genomes and to develop a panel of SNP markers for polyploid wheat.
Association mapping based on the linkage disequilibrium provides a promising tool to identify genes responsible for quantitative variations underlying complex traits. Presented here is a maize association mapping panel consisting of 155 inbred lines with mainly temperate germplasm, which was phenotyped for 34 traits and genotyped using 82 SSRs and 1,536 SNPs. Abundant phenotypic and genetic diversities were observed within the panel based on the phenotypic and genotypic analysis. A model-based analysis using 82 SSRs assigned all inbred lines to two groups with eight subgroups. The relative kinship matrix was calculated using 884 SNPs with minor allele frequency > or = 20% indicating that no or weak relationships were identified for most individual pairs. Three traits (total tocopherol content in maize kernel, plant height and kernel length) and 1,414 SNPs with missing data < 20% were used to evaluate the performance of four models for association mapping analysis. For all traits, the model controlling relative kinship (K) performed better than the model controlling population structure (Q), and similarly to the model controlling both population structure and relative kinship (Q + K) in this panel. Our results suggest this maize panel can be used for association mapping analysis targeting multiple agronomic and quality traits with optimal association model.
Host resistance has become a viable approach to eliminating aflatoxin contamination of maize since the discovery of several maize lines with natural resistance. However, to derive commercial benefit from this resistance and develop lines that can aid growers, markers need to be identified to facilitate the transfer of resistance into commercially useful genetic backgrounds without transfer of unwanted traits. To accomplish this, research efforts have focused on the identification of kernel resistance-associated proteins (RAPs) including the employment of comparative proteomics to investigate closely-related maize lines that vary in aflatoxin accumulation. RAPs have been identified and several further characterized through physiological and biochemical investigations to determine their causal role in resistance and, therefore, their suitability as breeding markers. Three RAPs, a 14 kDa trypsin inhibitor, pathogenesis-related protein 10 and glyoxalase I are being investigated using RNAi gene silencing and plant transformation. Several resistant lines have been subjected to QTL mapping to identify loci associated with the aflatoxin-resistance phenotype. Results of proteome and characterization studies are discussed.
Breeding to increase beta-carotene levels in cereal grains, termed provitamin A biofortification, is an economical approach to address dietary vitamin A deficiency in the developing world. Experimental evidence from association and linkage populations in maize (Zea mays L.) demonstrate that the gene encoding beta-carotene hydroxylase 1 (crtRB1) underlies a principal quantitative trait locus associated with beta-carotene concentration and conversion in maize kernels. crtRB1 alleles associated with reduced transcript expression correlate with higher beta-carotene concentrations. Genetic variation at crtRB1 also affects hydroxylation efficiency among encoded allozymes, as observed by resultant carotenoid profiles in recombinant expression assays. The most favorable crtRB1 alleles, rare in frequency and unique to temperate germplasm, are being introgressed via inexpensive PCR marker-assisted selection into tropical maize germplasm adapted to developing countries, where it is most needed for human health.
In rice, the GW2 gene, found on chromosome 2, controls grain width and weight. Two homologs of this gene, ZmGW2-CHR4 and ZmGW2-CHR5, have been found in maize. In this study, we investigated the relationship, evolutionary fate and putative function of these two maize genes.
Existing algorithms and methods for forming diverse core subsets currently address either allele representativeness (breeders preference) or allele richness (taxonomists preference). The main objective of this paper is to propose a powerful yet flexible algorithm capable of selecting core subsets that have high average genetic distance between accessions, or rich genetic diversity overall, or a combination of both.
A newly developed maize Illumina GoldenGate Assay with 1536 SNPs from 582 loci was used to genotype a highly diverse global maize collection of 632 inbred lines from temperate, tropical, and subtropical public breeding programs. A total of 1229 informative SNPs and 1749 haplotypes within 327 loci was used to estimate the genetic diversity, population structure, and familial relatedness. Population structure identified tropical and temperate subgroups, and complex familial relationships were identified within the global collection. Linkage disequilibrium (LD) was measured overall and within chromosomes, allelic frequency groups, subgroups related by geographic origin, and subgroups of different sample sizes. The LD decay distance differed among chromosomes and ranged between 1 to 10 kb. The LD distance increased with the increase of minor allelic frequency (MAF), and with smaller sample sizes, encouraging caution when using too few lines in a study. The LD decay distance was much higher in temperate than in tropical and subtropical lines, because tropical and subtropical lines are more diverse and contain more rare alleles than temperate lines. A core set of inbreds was defined based on haplotypes, and 60 lines capture 90% of the haplotype diversity of the entire panel. The defined core sets and the entire collection can be used widely for different research targets.
The GS3 gene was the first identified gene controlling the grain size in rice. It has been proven to be involved in the evolution of grain size during domestication. We isolated the maize ortholog, ZmGS3 and investigated its role in the evolution of maize grain size. ZmGS3 has five exons encoding a protein with 198 amino acids, and has domains in common with the rice GS3 protein. Compared with teosinte, maize has reduced nucleotide diversity at ZmGS3, and the reduction is comparable to that found in neutrally evolving maize genes. No positive selection was detected along the length of the gene using either the Hudson-Kreitman-Aguadé or Tajimas D tests. Phylogenetic analysis reveals a distribution of maize sequences among two different clades, with one clade including related teosinte sequences. The nucleotide polymorphism analysis, selection test and phylogenetic analysis reveal that ZmGS3 has not been subjected to selection, and appears to be a neutrally evolving gene. In maize, ZmGS3 is primarily expressed in immature ears and kernels, implying a role in maize kernel development. Association mapping analysis revealed one polymorphism in the fifth exon that is significantly associated with kernel length in two environments. Also one polymorphism in the promoter region was found to affect hundred kernel weight in both environments. Collectively, these results imply that ZmGS3 is involved in maize kernel development but with different functional polymorphisms and thus, possibly different mechanisms from that of the rice GS3 gene.
Maize is an important crop for food, feed, forage, and fuel across tropical and temperate areas of the world. Diversity studies at genetic, molecular, and functional levels have revealed that, tropical maize germplasm, landraces, and wild relatives harbor a significantly wider range of genetic variation. Among all types of markers, SNP markers are increasingly the marker-of-choice for all genomics applications in maize breeding. Genetic mapping has been developed through conventional linkage mapping and more recently through linkage disequilibrium-based association analyses. Maize genome sequencing, initially focused on gene-rich regions, now aims for the availability of complete genome sequence. Conventional insertion mutation-based cloning has been complemented recently by EST- and map-based cloning. Transgenics and nutritional genomics are rapidly advancing fields targeting important agronomic traits including pest resistance and grain quality. Substantial advances have been made in methodologies for genomics-assisted breeding, enhancing progress in yield as well as abiotic and biotic stress resistances. Various genomic databases and informatics tools have been developed, among which MaizeGDB is the most developed and widely used by the maize research community. In the future, more emphasis should be given to the development of tools and strategic germplasm resources for more effective molecular breeding of tropical maize products.
Phytoene synthase (PSY), which is encoded by the phytoene synthase 1 (PSY1) gene, is the first rate-limiting enzyme in the plant carotenoid biosynthetic pathway. In order to examine the genetic diversity and evolution pattern of PSY1 within the Andropogoneae, sequences of 76 accessions from 5 species (maize, teosinte, tripsacum, coix, and sorghum) of the Andropogoneae were tested, along with 4 accessions of rice (Oryza sativa L.) included as outliers. Both the number and the order of exons and introns were relatively conserved across the species tested. Three domains were identified in the coding sequence, including signal peptide (SP), PSY, and highly conserved squalene synthase (SQS) domain. Although no positive selection signal was detected at an overall coding level among all species tested, the SP domain and the region upstream of the SQS-PSY domain appear to have undergone rapid evolution, as evidenced by a high d (N)/d (S) ratio (>1.0). At the nucleotide level, positive selection and balancing selection were detected only among the yellow maize germplasm and the white maize germplasm, respectively. The phylogenetic tree based on full-length sequences of PSY1-like regions supported the monophyletic theory of the Andropogoneae and the closest relationship between Zea and Tripsacum among the Andropogoneae. Coix, which was theorized to have a closer relationship with maize due to similarities in morphology and chromosome number, has been shown in this study to have diverged relatively early from the other Andropogoneae, including maize.
Maize kernel oil is a valuable source of nutrition. Here we extensively examine the genetic architecture of maize oil biosynthesis in a genome-wide association study using 1.03 million SNPs characterized in 368 maize inbred lines, including high-oil lines. We identified 74 loci significantly associated with kernel oil concentration and fatty acid composition (P < 1.8 × 10(-6)), which we subsequently examined using expression quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping, linkage mapping and coexpression analysis. More than half of the identified loci localized in mapped QTL intervals, and one-third of the candidate genes were annotated as enzymes in the oil metabolic pathway. The 26 loci associated with oil concentration could explain up to 83% of the phenotypic variation using a simple additive model. Our results provide insights into the genetic basis of oil biosynthesis in maize kernels and may facilitate marker-based breeding for oil quantity and quality.
Provitamin A (Pro-VA) is necessary for human vision and immune system health, especially in growing children. The first committed step in the maize carotenoid biosynthesis pathway is catalyzed by phytoene synthase 1 (encoded by PSY1) which controls the flux of substrates into the pathway. The flow of these substrates could be directed into production of the ?-branch carotenoids (the step controlled largely by the lycopene epsilon cyclase gene), but terminated after the production of ?-carotene, rather than allowing it to be converted into the next metabolite (the step controlled largely by the ?-carotenoid hydroxylase gene). In this study, PSY1 was subjected to association mapping in two diverse maize populations, quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping in one segregating population, and expression analysis of lines polymorphic for sites within PSY1. The results indicated that a 378-bp InDel upstream of the transcription start site and a SNP in the fifth exon resulting in a Thr to Asn substitution, explaining 7 and 8 % of the total carotenoid variation, respectively, may be functional sites associated with total carotenoid levels in maize grain. Analysis of the evolution of PSY1 strongly suggests that there was positive selection for these polymorphic sites after the divergence of yellow maize from white maize.
Knowledge of germplasm diversity and relationships among elite breeding materials is fundamentally important in crop improvement. We genotyped 450 maize inbred lines developed and/or widely used by CIMMYT breeding programs in both Kenya and Zimbabwe using 1065 SNP markers to (i) investigate population structure and patterns of relationship of the germplasm for better exploitation in breeding programs; (ii) assess the usefulness of SNPs for identifying heterotic groups commonly used by CIMMYT breeding programs; and (iii) identify a subset of highly informative SNP markers for routine and low cost genotyping of CIMMYT germplasm in the region using uniplex assays.
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