Quantitative trait loci (QTL) are most often detected through designed mapping experiments. An alternative approach is in silico mapping, whereby genes are detected using existing phenotypic and genomic databases. We explored the usefulness of in silico mapping via a mixed-model approach in maize (Zea mays L.). Specifically, our objective was to determine if the procedure gave results that were repeatable across populations. Multilocation data were obtained from the 1995-2002 hybrid testing program of Limagrain Genetics in Europe. Nine heterotic patterns comprised 22,774 single crosses. These single crosses were made from 1,266 inbreds that had data for 96 simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers. By a mixed-model approach, we estimated the general combining ability effects associated with marker alleles in each heterotic pattern. The numbers of marker loci with significant effects--37 for plant height, 24 for smut [Ustilago maydis (DC.) Cda.] resistance, and 44 for grain moisture--were consistent with previous results from designed mapping experiments. Each trait had many loci with small effects and few loci with large effects. For smut resistance, a marker in bin 8.05 on chromosome 8 had a significant effect in seven (out of a maximum of 18) instances. For this major QTL, the maximum effect of an allele substitution ranged from 5.4% to 41.9%, with an average of 22.0%. We conclude that in silico mapping via a mixed-model approach can detect associations that are repeatable across different populations. We speculate that in silico mapping will be more useful for gene discovery than for selection in plant breeding programs.
Copyright 2004 Springer-Verlag