Association mapping for phenology and plant architecture in maize shows higher power for developmental traits compared with growth influenced traits

Heredity (Edinb). 2017 Mar;118(3):249-259. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2016.88. Epub 2016 Nov 23.


Plant architecture, phenology and yield components of cultivated plants have repeatedly been shaped by selection to meet human needs and adaptation to different environments. Here we assessed the genetic architecture of 24 correlated maize traits that interact during plant cycle. Overall, 336 lines were phenotyped in a network of 9 trials and genotyped with 50K single-nucleotide polymorphisms. Phenology was the main factor of differentiation between genetic groups. Then yield components distinguished dents from lower yielding genetic groups. However, most of trait variation occurred within group and we observed similar overall and within group correlations, suggesting a major effect of pleiotropy and/or linkage. We found 34 quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for individual traits and six for trait combinations corresponding to PCA coordinates. Among them, only five were pleiotropic. We found a cluster of QTLs in a 5 Mb region around Tb1 associated with tiller number, ear row number and the first PCA axis, the latter being positively correlated to flowering time and negatively correlated to yield. Kn1 and ZmNIP1 were candidate genes for tillering, ZCN8 for leaf number and Rubisco Activase 1 for kernel weight. Experimental repeatabilities, numbers of QTLs and proportion of explained variation were higher for traits related to plant development such as tillering, leaf number and flowering time, than for traits affected by growth such as yield components. This suggests a simpler genetic determinism with larger individual QTL effects for the first category.

MeSH terms

  • Chromosome Mapping*
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Genotype
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • Models, Genetic
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Quantitative Trait Loci*
  • Zea mays / genetics*
  • Zea mays / physiology

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.13074