, Volume 189, Issue 1, pp 67-88
Date: 23 May 2012

Detection of exotic QTLs controlling nitrogen stress tolerance among wild barley introgression lines

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Abstract

Nitrogen (N) is one of the most important plant nutrients, controlling growth and, ultimately, yield of a cultivar. Hordeum vulgare ssp. spontaneum, the wild barley progenitor of cultivated barley, is known to possess genes that can improve tolerance against biotic and abiotic stresses. A quantitative trait locus (QTL) study with two levels of N fertilization was conducted under glasshouse in order to locate wild barley alleles that improve N stress tolerance in the genetic background of an elite barley cultivar. For this, a set of 28 barley introgression lines (S42ILs), which originate from the cross ‘Scarlett’ × ‘ISR42-8’, was studied. The S42ILs, containing single or multiple wild barley introgressions, and ‘Scarlett’ were evaluated in regard to a total of 15 traits, related to morphological parameters, grain parameters as well as to carbon (C) and N content parameters. A mixed model analysis and a subsequent Dunnett test was conducted to identify S42ILs that significantly deviate from the recurrent parent ‘Scarlett’, either tested separately for each N level, or simultaneously across both N levels. In total, 65 QTLs were detected for the S42IL set. Most QTLs were found for chlorophyll content during heading (10 QTLs) and the fewest for C/N ratio of straw (1 QTL). The individual S42ILs possessed different numbers of QTLs. For S42IL-108, a maximum of eight QTLs were found whereas S42IL-145 did not show any significant difference from ‘Scarlett’. Wild barley alleles revealed decreasing effects at 32 QTLs and increasing effects at 33 QTLs. Although 25 QTLs exhibited similar effects across both N levels, 18 and 22 QTLs exhibited effects that were only detected under N0 or N1, respectively. We, thus, conclude that it may be worth to select improved barley cultivars for N stress tolerance separately under low N fertilization, rather than extrapolating trait performances from experiments carried out under standard N fertilization conditions. A number of wild barley QTL alleles improved N stress tolerance. For example, a wild barley QTL allele on chromosome 4H, present in the Hsp introgression of S42IL-119, was associated with a 13.0 % increase of thousand grain weight across both N levels and a 20 % increase under low N supply. QTLs detected in the present study were compared with those of previous field studies of the same cross and with other QTL studies in barley and other small grains. Accordance between QTL studies (QTLs showing similar effects at the same map location) is documented and discussed. Based on our study, promising wild barley QTL alleles are available in S42ILs, which can be readily utilized to select for improved N use efficiency in barley breeding.