Identification of Candidate Forage Yield Genes in Sorghum ( Sorghum bicolor L.) Using Integrated Genome-Wide Association Studies and RNA-Seq

Front Plant Sci. 2022 Jan 11;12:788433. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2021.788433. eCollection 2021.


Genetic dissection of forage yield traits is critical to the development of sorghum as a forage crop. In the present study, association mapping was performed with 85,585 SNP markers on four forage yield traits, namely plant height (PH), tiller number (TN), stem diameter (SD), and fresh weight per plant (FW) among 245 sorghum accessions evaluated in four environments. A total of 338 SNPs or quantitative trait nucleotides (QTNs) were associated with the four traits, and 21 of these QTNs were detected in at least two environments, including four QTNs for PH, ten for TN, six for SD, and one for FW. To identify candidate genes, dynamic transcriptome expression profiling was performed at four stages of sorghum development. One hundred and six differentially expressed genes (DEGs) that were enriched in hormone signal transduction pathways were found in all stages. Weighted gene correlation network analysis for PH and SD indicated that eight modules were significantly correlated with PH and that three modules were significantly correlated with SD. The blue module had the highest positive correlation with PH and SD, and the turquoise module had the highest negative correlation with PH and SD. Eight candidate genes were identified through the integration of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and RNA sequencing. Sobic.004G143900, an indole-3-glycerol phosphate synthase gene that is involved in indoleacetic acid biosynthesis, was down-regulated as sorghum plants grew in height and was identified in the blue module, and Sobic.003G375100, an SD candidate gene, encoded a DNA repair RAD52-like protein 1 that plays a critical role in DNA repair-linked cell cycle progression. These findings demonstrate that the integrative analysis of omics data is a promising approach to identify candidate genes for complex traits.

Keywords: RNA-seq; candidate gene; forage yield trait; genome-wide association study; sorghum.