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An innovative procedure of genome-wide association analysis fits studies on germplasm population and plant breeding


Key message

The innovative RTM-GWAS procedure provides a relatively thorough detection of QTL and their multiple alleles for germplasm population characterization, gene network identification, and genomic selection strategy innovation in plant breeding.


The previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been concentrated on finding a handful of major quantitative trait loci (QTL), but plant breeders are interested in revealing the whole-genome QTL-allele constitution in breeding materials/germplasm (in which tremendous historical allelic variation has been accumulated) for genome-wide improvement. To match this requirement, two innovations were suggested for GWAS: first grouping tightly linked sequential SNPs into linkage disequilibrium blocks (SNPLDBs) to form markers with multi-allelic haplotypes, and second utilizing two-stage association analysis for QTL identification, where the markers were preselected by single-locus model followed by multi-locus multi-allele model stepwise regression. Our proposed GWAS procedure is characterized as a novel restricted two-stage multi-locus multi-allele GWAS (RTM-GWAS, The Chinese soybean germplasm population (CSGP) composed of 1024 accessions with 36,952 SNPLDBs (generated from 145,558 SNPs, with reduced linkage disequilibrium decay distance) was used to demonstrate the power and efficiency of RTM-GWAS. Using the CSGP marker information, simulation studies demonstrated that RTM-GWAS achieved the highest QTL detection power and efficiency compared with the previous procedures, especially under large sample size and high trait heritability conditions. A relatively thorough detection of QTL with their multiple alleles was achieved by RTM-GWAS compared with the linear mixed model method on 100-seed weight in CSGP. A QTL-allele matrix (402 alleles of 139 QTL × 1024 accessions) was established as a compact form of the population genetic constitution. The 100-seed weight QTL-allele matrix was used for genetic characterization, candidate gene prediction, and genomic selection for optimal crosses in the germplasm population.

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This work was supported by the China National Key R & D Program for Crop Breeding (2016YFD0100304), the China National Key Basic Research Program (2011CB1093), the China National Hightech R&D Program (2012AA101106), the Natural Science Foundation of China (31571695), the MOE 111 Project (B08025), Program for Changjiang Scholars and Innovative Research Team in University (PCSIRT13073), the MOA Public Profit Program (201203026-4), the MOA CARS-04 program, the Jiangsu Higher Education PAPD Program, and the Jiangsu JCIC-MCP Program. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Junyi Gai.

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Communicated by Dr. Mikko J. Sillanpaa.

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He, J., Meng, S., Zhao, T. et al. An innovative procedure of genome-wide association analysis fits studies on germplasm population and plant breeding. Theor Appl Genet 130, 2327–2343 (2017).

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