Genomic Dissection of Leaf Angle in Maize (Zea mays L.) Using a Four-Way Cross Mapping Population
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Increasing grain yield by the selection for optimal plant architecture has been the key focus in modern maize breeding. As a result, leaf angle, an important determinant of plant architecture, has been significantly improved to adapt to the ever-increasing plant density in maize production over the past several decades. To extend our understanding on the genetic mechanisms of leaf angle in maize, we developed the first four-way cross mapping population, consisting of 277 lines derived from four maize inbred lines with varied leaf angles. The four-way cross mapping population together with the four parental lines were evaluated for leaf angle in two environments. In this study, we reported linkage maps built in the population and quantitative trait loci (QTL) on leaf angle detected by inclusive composite interval mapping (ICIM). ICIM applies a two-step strategy to effectively separate the cofactor selection from the interval mapping, which controls the background additive and dominant effects at the same time. A total of 14 leaf angle QTL were identified, four of which were further validated in near-isogenic lines (NILs). Seven of the 14 leaf angle QTL were found to overlap with the published leaf angle QTL or genes, and the remaining QTL were unique to the four-way population. This study represents the first example of QTL mapping using a four-way cross population in maize, and demonstrates that the use of specially designed four-way cross is effective in uncovering the basis of complex and polygenetic trait like leaf angle in maize.
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