QTL detection for forage quality and stem histology in four connected mapping populations of the model legume Medicago truncatula

Luz Del Carmen Lagunes Espinoza, Bernadette Julier
TAG. Theoretical and Applied Genetics. Theoretische und Angewandte Genetik 2013, 126 (2): 497-509
Forage quality combines traits related to protein content and energy value. High-quality forages contribute to increase farm autonomy by reducing the use of energy or protein-rich supplements. Genetic analyses in forage legume species are complex because of their tetraploidy and allogamy. Indeed, no genetic studies of quality have been published at the molecular level on these species. Nonetheless, mapping populations of the model species M. truncatula can be used to detect QTL for forage quality. Here, we studied a crossing design involving four connected populations of M. truncatula. Each population was composed of ca. 200 recombinant inbred lines (RIL). We sought population-specific QTL and QTL explaining the whole design variation. We grew parents and RIL in a greenhouse for 2 or 3 seasons and analysed plants for chemical composition of vegetative organs (protein content, digestibility, leaf-to-stem ratio) and stem histology (stem cross-section area, tissue proportions). Over the four populations and all the traits, QTL were found on all chromosomes. Among these QTL, only four genomic regions, on chromosomes 1, 3, 7 and 8, contributed to explaining the variations in the whole crossing design. Surprisingly, we found that quality QTL were located in the same genomic regions as morphological QTL. We thus confirmed the quantitative inheritance of quality traits and tight relationships between quality and morphology. Our findings could be explained by a co-location of genes involved in quality and morphology. This study will help to detect candidate genes involved in quantitative variation for quality in forage legume species.

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