Genome-wide association study dissects yield components associated with low-phosphorus stress tolerance in maize uri icon


  • Phosphorus deficiency in soil is a worldwide constraint threatening maize production. Through a genome-wide association study, we identified molecular markers and associated candidate genes and molecular pathways for low-phosphorus stress tolerance.
  • Phosphorus deficiency in soils will severely affect maize (Zea mays L.) growth and development, thus decreasing the final yield. Deciphering the genetic basis of yield-related traits can benefit our understanding of maize tolerance to low-phosphorus stress. However, considering that yield-related traits should be evaluated under field condition with large populations rather than under hydroponic condition at a single-plant level, searching for appropriate field experimental sites and target traits for low-phosphorus stress tolerance is still very challenging. In this study, a genome-wide association analysis using two natural populations was performed to detect candidate genes in response to low-phosphorus stress at two experimental sites representative of different climate and soil types. In total, 259 candidate genes were identified and these candidate genes are mainly involved in four major pathways: transcriptional regulation, reactive oxygen scavenging, hormone regulation, and remodeling of cell wall. Among these candidate genes, 98 showed differential expression by transcriptome data. Based on a haplotype analysis of grain number under phosphorus deficiency condition, the positive haplotypes with favorable alleles across five loci increased grain number by 42% than those without favorable alleles. For further verifying the feasibility of genomic selection for improving maize low-phosphorus tolerance, we also validated the predictive ability of five genomic selection methods and suggested that moderate-density SNPs were sufficient to make accurate predictions for low-phosphorus tolerance traits. All these results will facilitate elucidating genetic basis of maize tolerance to low-phosphorus stress and improving marker-assisted selection efficiency in breeding process.

publication date

  • 2018
  • 2018