Dias Almeida, G.; Nair, S.; Borem, A.; Cairns, J.; Trachsel, S.;Ribaut, J-M; Banziger, M.; Prasanna, B.M.; Crossa, J.; Babu, R.
Identifying quantitative trait loci (QTL) of sizeable effects that are expressed in diverse genetic backgrounds across contrasting water regimes particularly for secondary traits can significantly complement the conventional drought tolerance breeding efforts. We evaluated three tropical maize biparental populations under water-stressed and well-watered regimes for drought-related morpho-physiological traits, such as anthesis-silking interval (ASI), ears per plant (EPP), stay-green (SG) and plant-to-ear height ratio (PEH). In general, drought stress reduced the genetic variance of grain yield (GY), while that of morpho-physiological traits remained stable or even increased under drought conditions. We detected consistent genomic regions across different genetic backgrounds that could be target regions for marker-assisted introgression for drought tolerance in maize. A total of 203 QTL for ASI, EPP, SG and PEH were identified under both the water regimes. Meta-QTL analysis across the three populations identified six constitutive genomic regions with a minimum of two overlapping traits. Clusters of QTL were observed on chromosomes 1.06, 3.06, 4.09, 5.05, 7.03 and 10.04/06. Interestingly, a ~8-Mb region delimited in 3.06 harboured QTL for most of the morpho-physiological traits considered in the current study. This region contained two important candidate genes viz., zmm16 (MADS-domain transcription factor) and psbs1 (photosystem II unit) that are responsible for reproductive organ development and photosynthate accumulation, respectively. The genomic regions identified in this study partially explained the association of secondary traits with GY. Flanking single nucleotide polymorphism markers reported herein may be useful in marker-assisted introgression of drought tolerance in tropical maize.
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