Heading date and photoperiod sensitivity are fundamental traits that determine rice adaptation to a wide range of geographic environments. By quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping and candidate gene analysis using whole-genome re-sequencing, we found that Oryza sativa Pseudo-Response Regulator37 (OsPRR37; hereafter PRR37) is responsible for the Early heading7-2 (EH7-2)/Heading date2 (Hd2) QTL which was identified from a cross of late-heading rice 'Milyang23 (M23)' and early-heading rice 'H143'. H143 contains a missense mutation of an invariantly conserved amino acid in the CCT (CONSTANS, CO-like, and TOC1) domain of PRR37 protein. In the world rice collection, different types of nonfunctional PRR37 alleles were found in many European and Asian rice cultivars. Notably, the japonica varieties harboring nonfunctional alleles of both Ghd7/Hd4 and PRR37/Hd2 flower extremely early under natural long-day conditions, and are adapted to the northernmost regions of rice cultivation, up to 53° N latitude. Genetic analysis revealed that the effects of PRR37 and Ghd7 alleles on heading date are additive, and PRR37 down-regulates Hd3a expression to suppress flowering under long-day conditions. Our results demonstrate that natural variations in PRR37/Hd2 and Ghd7/Hd4 have contributed to the expansion of rice cultivation to temperate and cooler regions.
Keywords: Ghd7; OsPRR37.; heading date; natural variation; quantitative trait locus; rice.