, Volume 127, Issue 3, pp 535-547
Date: 19 Nov 2013

Genetic analyses of bolting in bulb onion (Allium cepa L.)

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Key message

We present the first evidence for a QTL conditioning an adaptive trait in bulb onion, and the first linkage and population genetics analyses of candidate genes involved in photoperiod and vernalization physiology.


Economic production of bulb onion (Allium cepa L.) requires adaptation to photoperiod and temperature such that a bulb is formed in the first year and a flowering umbel in the second. ‘Bolting’, or premature flowering before bulb maturation, is an undesirable trait strongly selected against by breeders during adaptation of germplasm. To identify genome regions associated with adaptive traits we conducted linkage mapping and population genetic analyses of candidate genes, and QTL analysis of bolting using a low-density linkage map. We performed tagged amplicon sequencing of ten candidate genes, including the FT-like gene family, in eight diverse populations to identify polymorphisms and seek evidence of differentiation. Low nucleotide diversity and negative estimates of Tajima’s D were observed for most genes, consistent with purifying selection. Significant population differentiation was observed only in AcFT2 and AcSOC1. Selective genotyping in a large ‘Nasik Red × CUDH2150’ F2 family revealed genome regions on chromosomes 1, 3 and 6 associated (LOD > 3) with bolting. Validation genotyping of two F2 families grown in two environments confirmed that a QTL on chromosome 1, which we designate AcBlt1, consistently conditions bolting susceptibility in this cross. The chromosome 3 region, which coincides with a functionally characterised acid invertase, was not associated with bolting in other environments, but showed significant association with bulb sucrose content in this and other mapping pedigrees. These putative QTL and candidate genes were placed on the onion map, enabling future comparative studies of adaptive traits.

Communicated by A. E. Melchinger.