Genetic mapping and analysis of quantitative trait loci affecting fiber and lignin content in maize
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Plant cell walls of forage provide a major source of energy for ruminant animals. Digestion of cell walls is limited by the presence of lignin, therefore the improving the digestibility of forages by reducing lignin content is a major goal in forage crop breeding programs. A recombinant inbred line maize population was used to map quantitative trait loci (QTL) for neutral detergent fiber (NDF), acid detergent fiber (ADF), and acid detergent lignin (ADL) of leaf-sheath and stalk tissues. All traits were positively genetically correlated. The larger genetic correlations were between NDF and ADF in sheaths (r = 0.84), NDF and ADF (r = 0.96), ADF and ADL (r = 0.83), and NDF and ADL (r = 0.76) in stalks. Twelve QTL were detected for NDF and 11 QTL for ADF in leaf-sheaths. Eight QTL detected for both traits were defined by the same or linked marker loci. Eight QTL were associated with leaf-sheath ADL. Eleven QTL were detected for NDF and ADF, and 12 QTL for ADL in stalks. Nine of eleven QTL detected for both NDF and ADF in stalks coincided in their genomic position. A high proportion of QTL detected for these traits had the same parental effects and genomic locations, suggesting that it is only necessary to select on one fiber component (NDF or ADF) to improve digestibility. Favorable correlated responses of unselected fiber components are expected due to coincident genomic locations of QTL and the high genetic correlation between fiber components. Several QTL detected in this study coincided in their positions with putative cellulose synthase genes from maize.
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