Genome-Wide Association Study and QTL Mapping Reveal Genomic Loci Associated with Fusarium Ear Rot Resistance in Tropical Maize Germplasm

Jiafa Chen, Rosemary Shrestha, Junqiang Ding, Hongjian Zheng, Chunhua Mu, Jianyu Wu, George Mahuku
G3: Genes—Genomes—Genetics 2016 December 7, 6 (12): 3803-3815
Fusarium ear rot (FER) incited by Fusarium verticillioides is a major disease of maize that reduces grain quality globally. Host resistance is the most suitable strategy for managing the disease. We report the results of genome-wide association study (GWAS) to detect alleles associated with increased resistance to FER in a set of 818 tropical maize inbred lines evaluated in three environments. Association tests performed using 43,424 single-nucleotide polymorphic (SNPs) markers identified 45 SNPs and 15 haplotypes that were significantly associated with FER resistance. Each associated SNP locus had relatively small additive effects on disease resistance and accounted for 1-4% of trait variation. These SNPs and haplotypes were located within or adjacent to 38 candidate genes, 21 of which were candidate genes associated with plant tolerance to stresses, including disease resistance. Linkage mapping in four biparental populations to validate GWAS results identified 15 quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with F. verticillioides resistance. Integration of GWAS and QTL to the maize physical map showed eight colocated loci on chromosomes 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, and 10. QTL on chromosomes 2 and 9 are new. These results reveal that FER resistance is a complex trait that is conditioned by multiple genes with minor effects. The value of selection on identified markers for improving FER resistance is limited; rather, selection to combine small effect resistance alleles combined with genomic selection for polygenic background for both the target and general adaptation traits might be fruitful for increasing FER resistance in maize.


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