Genetic dissection of maize phenology using an intraspecific introgression library

Silvio Salvi, Simona Corneti, Massimo Bellotti, Nicola Carraro, Maria C Sanguineti, Sara Castelletti, Roberto Tuberosa
BMC Plant Biology 2011, 11: 4

BACKGROUND: Collections of nearly isogenic lines where each line carries a delimited portion of a donor source genome into a common recipient genetic background are known as introgression libraries and have already shown to be instrumental for the dissection of quantitative traits. By means of marker-assisted backcrossing, we have produced an introgression library using the extremely early-flowering maize (Zea mays L.) variety Gaspé Flint and the elite line B73 as donor and recipient genotypes, respectively, and utilized this collection to investigate the genetic basis of flowering time and related traits of adaptive and agronomic importance in maize.

RESULTS: The collection includes 75 lines with an average Gaspé Flint introgression length of 43.1 cM. The collection was evaluated for flowering time, internode length, number of ears, number of nodes (phytomeres), number of nodes above the ear, number and proportion of nodes below the ear and plant height. Five QTLs for flowering time were mapped, all corresponding to major QTLs for number of nodes. Three additional QTLs for number of nodes were mapped. Besides flowering time, the QTLs for number of nodes drove phenotypic variation for plant height and number of nodes below and above the top ear, but not for internode length. A number of apparently Mendelian-inherited phenotypes were also observed.

CONCLUSIONS: While the inheritance of flowering time was dominated by the well-known QTL Vgt1, a number of other important flowering time QTLs were identified and, thanks to the type of plant material here utilized, immediately isogenized and made available for fine mapping. At each flowering time QTL, early flowering correlated with fewer vegetative phytomeres, indicating the latter as a key developmental strategy to adapt the maize crop from the original tropical environment to the northern border of the temperate zone (southern Canada), where Gaspé Flint was originally cultivated. Because of the trait differences between the two parental genotypes, this collection will serve as a permanent source of nearly isogenic materials for multiple studies of QTL analysis and cloning.

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