Morphological traits defining species differences in wild relatives of maize are controlled by multiple quantitative trait loci

Evolution. 2002 Feb;56(2):273-83. doi: 10.1111/j.0014-3820.2002.tb01337.x.


We analyzed the genetic basis of morphological differences between two wild species of teosinte (Zea diploperennis and Z. mays ssp. parviglumis), which are relatives of maize. These two species differ in a number of taxonomically important traits including the structure of the tassel (male inflorescence), which is the focus of this report. To investigate the genetic inheritance of six tassel traits, quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping with 95 RFLP markers was employed on a population of 425 F2 plants. Each trait was analyzed by interval mapping (IM) and composite interval mapping (CIM) to identify and characterize the QTL controlling the differences in tassel morphology. We detected two to eight QTL for each trait. In total, 30 QTL with IM and 33 QTL with CIM were found for tassel morphology. QTL for several of the traits mapped near each other, suggesting pleiotropy and/or linkage of QTL. The QTL showed small to moderate magnitudes of effect. No QTL of exceptionally large effect were found as seen under domestication and in the case of some other natural species. Thus, the model involving major QTL of large effect seems not to apply to the traits and species analyzed. A mixture of QTL with positive and negative allelic effects was found for most tassel traits and may suggest a history of periodic changes in the direction of selection during the divergence of Z. diploperennis and Z. mays ssp. parviglumis or fixation of QTL alleles by random genetic drift rather than selection.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Chromosome Mapping*
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Genetic Markers
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable*
  • Reproduction
  • Seeds / genetics
  • Species Specificity
  • Zea mays / anatomy & histology
  • Zea mays / classification*
  • Zea mays / genetics*


  • Genetic Markers