A Genome-Wide Association Study To Understand the Effect of Fusarium verticillioides Infection on Seedlings of a Maize Diversity Panel

G3 (Bethesda). 2020 May 4;10(5):1685-1696. doi: 10.1534/g3.119.400987.


Fusarium verticillioides, which causes ear, kernel and stem rots, has been reported as the most prevalent species on maize worldwide. Kernel infection by F. verticillioides results in reduced seed yield and quality as well as fumonisin contamination, and may affect seedling traits like germination rate, entire plant seedling length and weight. Maize resistance to Fusarium is a quantitative and complex trait controlled by numerous genes with small effects. In the present work, a Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS) of traits related to Fusarium seedling rot was carried out in 230 lines of a maize association population using 226,446 SNP markers. Phenotypes were scored on artificially infected kernels applying the rolled towel assay screening method and three traits related to disease response were measured in inoculated and not-inoculated seedlings: plant seedling length (PL), plant seedling weight (PW) and germination rate (GERM). Overall, GWAS resulted in 42 SNPs significantly associated with the examined traits. Two and eleven SNPs were associated with PL in inoculated and not-inoculated samples, respectively. Additionally, six and one SNPs were associated with PW and GERM traits in not-inoculated kernels, and further nine and thirteen SNPs were associated to the same traits in inoculated kernels. Five genes containing the significant SNPs or physically closed to them were proposed for Fusarium resistance, and 18 out of 25 genes containing or adjacent to significant SNPs identified by GWAS in the current research co-localized within QTL regions previously reported for resistance to Fusarium seed rot, Fusarium ear rot and fumonisin accumulation. Furthermore, linkage disequilibrium analysis revealed an additional gene not directly observed by GWAS analysis. These findings could aid to better understand the complex interaction between maize and F. verticillioides.

Keywords: Artificial inoculation; Fusarium verticillioides; GWAS; Maize; SNPs.