Background and aims: Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) play an important role in plant nutrition and protection against pests and diseases, as well as in soil structuration, nutrient cycling and, generally speaking, in sustainable agriculture, particularly under drought, salinity and low input or organic agriculture. However, little is known about the genetics of the AMF-plant association in tomato. The aim of this study was the genetic analysis of root AMF colonization in tomato via the detection of the quantitative trait loci (QTLs) involved.
Methods: A population of 130 recombinant inbred lines derived from the wild species Solanum pimpinellifolium, genotyped for 1899 segregating, non-redundant single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from the SolCAP tomato panel, was characterized for intensity, frequency and arbuscular abundance of AMF colonization to detect the QTLs involved and to analyse the genes within their peaks (2-2.6 Mbp).
Key results: The three AMF colonization parameters were highly correlated (0.78-0.97) and the best one, with the highest heritability (0.23), corresponded to colonization intensity. A total of eight QTLs in chromosomes 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10 were detected. Seven of them simultaneously affected intensity and arbuscule abundance. The allele increasing the expression of the trait usually came from the wild parent in accordance with the parental means, and several epistatic interactions were found relevant for breeding purposes. SlCCaMK and SlLYK13 were found among the candidate genes. Carbohydrate transmembrane transporter activity, lipid metabolism and transport, metabolic processes related to nitrogen and phosphate-containing compounds, regulation of carbohydrates, and other biological processes involved in the plant defence were found to be over-represented within the QTL peaks.
Conclusions: Intensity is genetically the best morphological measure of tomato root AMF colonization. Wild alleles can improve AMF colonization, and the gene contents of AMF colonization QTLs might be important for explaining the establishment and functioning of the AMF-plant symbiosis.
Keywords: S. lycopersicum; Solanum pimpinellifolium; AMF colonization; QTL analysis; SolCAP SNPs; biological process; candidate genes; epistasis; heritability; underdominance.
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