Genome-wide association studies of drought-related metabolic changes in maize using an enlarged SNP panel

Xuehai Zhang, Marilyn L Warburton, Tim Setter, Haijun Liu, Yadong Xue, Ning Yang, Jianbing Yan, Yingjie Xiao
TAG. Theoretical and Applied Genetics. Theoretische und Angewandte Genetik 2016, 129 (8): 1449-63
Genetic determinants of metabolites related to drought tolerance in maize. Water deficit or drought is one of the most serious abiotic stresses of plant development and greatly reduces crop production, and the plant's response to this deficit leads to many metabolic changes. To dissect the genetic basis of these metabolic traits in maize, we performed a genome-wide association analysis of drought-related traits using 156,599 SNPs in 318 maize inbred lines. In total, 123 significant SNP/trait associations (P ≤ 6.39E-6) involving 63 loci were identified for related metabolic and physiological traits in multiple tissues and different environments under two irrigation conditions. Of the 63, 23 loci demonstrated a significant interaction effect between QTL and water status, indicating that these metabolite-associated loci were probably related to drought stress tolerance. To evaluate the potential utility of metabolite-associated loci applied in hybrid maize breeding, we assembled two groups of hybrid entries with high or low drought tolerance and measured the metabolic and physiological traits. In the hybrid pools, a set of 10 metabolite-associated loci identified in leaf and ear were validated as responsive to drought stress. The favorable alleles of these ten loci were significantly enriched in hybrids with high drought tolerance, which jointly explained almost 18.4 % of the variation in drought tolerance using a multivariate logistic regression model. These results provide clues to understanding the genetic basis of metabolic and physiological changes related to drought tolerance, potentially facilitating the genetic improvement of varieties with high drought tolerance in maize breeding programs.


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