Fusarium verticillioides infects maize, causing ear rot, yield loss and contamination by fumonisin mycotoxins. The fungus can be transmitted via kernels and cause systemic infection in maize. Maize resistance to the fungus may occur at different developmental stages, from seedling to maturity. Resistance during kernel germination is part of the plant-pathogen interaction and so far this aspect has not been investigated. In the present study, a genome wide association study (GWAS) of resistance to Fusarium during the seedling developmental stage was conducted in a maize diversity panel using 226,446 SNP markers. Seedling germination and disease phenotypes were scored on artificially inoculated kernels using the rolled towel assay. GWAS identified 164 SNPs significantly associated with the traits examined. Four SNPs were associated with disease severity score after inoculation, 153 were associated with severity in asymptomatic kernels and 7 with the difference between the severity ratings in inoculated and non-inoculated seeds. A set of genes containing or physically near the significant SNPs were identified as candidates for Fusarium resistance at the seedling stage. Functional analysis revealed that many of these genes are directly involved in plant defense against pathogens and stress responses, including transcription factors, chitinase, cytochrome P450, and ubiquitination proteins. In addition, 25 genes were found in high linkage disequilibrium with the associated SNPs identified by GWAS and four of them directly involved in disease resistance. These findings contribute to understanding the complex system of maize-F. verticillioides and may improve genomic selection for Fusarium resistance at the seedling stage.
Keywords: Fusarium verticillioides; Genome Wide Association Studies; Maize; Rolled Towel Assay; SNPs; resistance to seedling disease.
Copyright © 2019 Stagnati et al.