Background: Maize kernel row number (KRN) is one of the most important yield traits and has changed greatly during maize domestication and selection. Elucidating the genetic basis of KRN will be helpful to improve grain yield in maize.
Results: Here, we measured KRN in four environments using a nested association mapping (NAM) population named HNAU-NAM1 with 1,617 recombinant inbred lines (RILs) that were derived from 12 maize inbred lines with a common parent, GEMS41. Then, five consensus quantitative trait loci (QTLs) distributing on four chromosomes were identified in at least three environments along with the best linear unbiased prediction (BLUP) values by the joint linkage mapping (JLM) method. These QTLs were further validated by the separate linkage mapping (SLM) and genome-wide association study (GWAS) methods. Three KRN genes cloned through the QTL assay were found in three of the five consensus QTLs, including qKRN1.1, qKRN2.1 and qKRN4.1. Two new QTLs of KRN, qKRN4.2 and qKRN9.1, were also identified. On the basis of public RNA-seq and genome annotation data, five genes highly expressed in ear tissue were considered candidate genes contributing to KRN.
Conclusions: This study carried out a comprehensive analysis of the genetic architecture of KRN by using a new NAM population under multiple environments. The present results provide solid information for understanding the genetic components underlying KRN and candidate genes in qKRN4.2 and qKRN9.1. Single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) closely linked to qKRN4.2 and qKRN9.1 could be used to improve inbred yield during molecular breeding in maize.
Keywords: Kernel row number (KRN); Maize; Nested association mapping (NAM) population; Quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping.
© 2022. The Author(s).