Skip to main content
Log in

Use of SSRs for establishing heterotic groups in subtropical maize

  • Published:
Theoretical and Applied Genetics Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Heterotic groups and patterns are of fundamental importance in hybrid breeding. The objectives of our research were to: (1) investigate the relationship of simple sequence repeats (SSR) based genetic distances between populations and panmictic midparent heterosis (PMPH) in a broad range of CIMMYT maize germplasm, (2) evaluate the usefulness of SSR markers for defining heterotic groups and patterns in subtropical germplasm, and (3) examine applications of SSR markers for broadening heterotic groups by systematic introgression of other germplasm. Published data of two diallels and one factorial evaluated for grain yield were re-analyzed to calculate the PMPH in population hybrids. Additionally, 20 pools and populations widely used in CIMMYT's breeding program were assayed with 83 SSR markers covering the entire maize genome. Correlations of squared modified Roger's distance (MRD2) and PMPH were mostly positive and significant, but adaption problems caused deviations in some cases. For intermediate- and early-maturity subtropical germplasm, two heterotic groups could be suggested consisting of a flint and dent composite. We concluded that the relationships between the populations obtained by SSR analyses are in excellent agreement with pedigree information. SSR markers are a valuable complementation to field trials for identifying heterotic groups and can be used to introgress exotic germplasm systematically.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1.
Fig. 2.

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Beck DL, Vasal SK, Crossa J (1991) Heterosis and combining ability among subtropical and temperate intermediate-maturity maize germplasm. Crop Sci 31:68–73

    Google Scholar 

  • Boppenmaier J, Melchinger AE, Seitz G, Geiger HH, Herrmann RG (1993) Genetic diversity for RFLPs in European maize inbreds. III. Performance of crosses within versus between heterotic groups for grain traits. Plant Breed 111:217–226

    Google Scholar 

  • Brummer EC (1999) Capturing heterosis in forage crop cultivar development. Crop Sci 39:943–954

    Google Scholar 

  • Charcosset A, Lefort-Buson M, Gallais A (1991) Relationship between heterosis and heterozygosity at marker loci: a theoretical computation. Theor Appl Genet 81:571–575

    Google Scholar 

  • Charcosset A, Essioux L (1994) The effect of population structure on the relationship between heterosis and heterozygosity at marker loci. Theor Appl Genet 89:336–343

    Google Scholar 

  • CIMMYT (1998) A complete listing of maize germplasm from CIMMYT. Maize Program Special Report, Mexico DF, Mexico

  • Comstock RE, Robinson HF (1948) The components of genetic variance in populations of biparental progenies and their use in estimating the average degree of dominance. Biometrics 4:254–266

    Google Scholar 

  • Cress CE (1966) Heterosis of the hybrid related to gene-frequency differences between two populations. Genetics 53:269–274

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Crossa J, Vasal SK, Beck DL (1990) Combining ability estimates of CIMMYT tropical late yellow maize germplasm. Maydica 35:273–278

    Google Scholar 

  • Elder JK, Souther EM (1987) Computer-aided analysis of one-dimensional restriction fragments gels. In: Bishop MJ, Rawling CJ (eds) Nucleid acid and protein sequence analysis – a practical approach. IRL Press, Oxford, pp 165–172

  • Falconer DS, Mackay TF (1996) Introduction to quantitative genetics, 4th edn. Longman Group Ltd, London

  • Fisher RA (1921) On the "probable error" of a coefficient of correlation deduced from a small sample. Metron 1:1–32

    Google Scholar 

  • Frisch M, Bohn M, Melchinger AEM (2000) Plabsim: software for simulation of marker-assisted backcrossing. J Hered 91:86–87

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gardner CO, Eberhart SA (1966) Analysis and interpretation of the variety cross diallel and related populations. Biometrics 22:439–452

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Goodman MM, Stuber CW (1983) Races of maize. VI. Isozyme variation among races of maize in Bolivia. Maydica 28:169–187

    Google Scholar 

  • Gower JC (1966) Some distance properties of latent root and vector methods used in multivariate analysis. Biometrika 53:325–338

    Google Scholar 

  • Hallauer AR, Russell WA, Lamkey KR (1988) Corn breeding. In: Sprague GF, Dudley JW (eds) Corn and corn improvement, 3rd edn. Agron Monogr 18, ASA, CSSA and SSSA, Madison, Wisconsin, pp 463–564

  • Hartigan JA, Wong MA (1979) A K-means clustering algorithm. Appl Stats 28:100–108

    Google Scholar 

  • Ihaka R, Gentleman R (1996) A language for data analysis and graphics. J Computat Graphical Stats, Vol 5 3:299–314

    Google Scholar 

  • Lamkey KR, Edwards JW (1999) Quantitative genetics of heterosis. Chapter 10. In: Coors JG, Pandey S (eds) The genetics and exploitation of heterosis in crops. CSSA, Madison, Wisconsin

  • Lu H, Bernardo R (2001) Molecular marker diversity among current and historical maize inbreds. Theor Appl Genet 103:613–617

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Melchinger AE (1993) Use of RFLP markers for analysis of genetic relationship among breeding materials and prediction of hybrid performance. In: International Crop Science I. CSSA, Madison, Wisconsin, pp 621–628

  • Melchinger AE (1999) Genetic diversity and heterosis. Chapter 10. In: Coors JG, Pandey S (eds) The genetics and exploitation of heterosis in crops. CSSA, Madison, Wisconsin

  • Melchinger AE, Gumber RK (1998) Overview of heterosis and heterotic groups in agronomic crops. In: Lamkey KR, Staub JE (eds) Concepts and breeding of heterosis in crop plants, CSSA, Madison, Wisconsin, pp 29–44

  • Melchinger AE, Lee M, Lamkey KR, Woodman WL (1990) Genetic diversity for restriction fragment length polymorphisms: relation to estimated genetic effects in maize inbreds. Crop Sci 30:1033–1040

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Melchinger AE, Messmer MM, Lee M, Woodman WL, Lamkey KR (1991) Diversity and relationships among US maize inbreds revealed by restriction fragment length polymorphisms. Crop Sci 31:669–678

    Google Scholar 

  • Michalakis Y, Excoffier L (1996) A generic estimation of population subdivision using distances between alleles with special reference for microsatellite loci. Genetics 142:1061–1064

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Moll RH, Salhuana WS, Robinson HF (1962) Heterosis and genetic diversity in variety crosses of maize. Crop Sci 2:197–198

    Google Scholar 

  • Moll RH, Longquist JH, Fortuna JV, Johnson EC (1965) The relation of heterosis and genetic divergence in maize. Genetics 52:139–144

    Google Scholar 

  • Ron Parra J, Hallauer AR (1997) Utilization of exotic maize germplasm. Plant Breed Rev 14:165–187

    Google Scholar 

  • Saghai-Maroof MA, Soliman KM, Jorgenson R, Allward RW (1984) Ribosomal DNA spacer length polymorphisms in barley: Mendelian inheritance, chromosomal location and population dynamics. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 81:8014–8018

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Schneider S, Roessli D, Excoffier L (2000) Arlequin, ver 2.0: a software of population genetics data analysis. Genetics and Biometry Laboratory, University of Geneva, Switzerland

  • Senior ML, Murohy MM, Goodman MM, Stuber CW (1998) Utility of SSRs for determining genetic similarities and relationships in maize using an agarose gel system. Crop Sci 28:63–67

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith JSC, Chin ECL, Shu H, Smith OS, Wall SJ, Senior ML, Mitchell SE, Kresovitch S, Ziegle J (1997) An evaluation of the utility of SSR loci as molecular markers in maize (Zea mays L.): comparisons with data from RFLPs and pedigree. Theor Appl Genet 95:163–173

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Vasal SK, Srinivasan G, Crossa J, Beck DL (1992a) Heterosis and combining ability of CIMMYT's subtropical and temperate early maturity maize germplasm. Crop Sci 32:884–890

    Google Scholar 

  • Vasal SK, Srinivasan G, Beck DL, Crossa J, Pandey S, Leon C de (1992b) Heterosis and combining ability of CIMMYT's tropical late white maize germplasm. Maydica 37:217–223

    Google Scholar 

  • Vasal SK, Srinivasan G, Gonzalez F, Han GC, Pandey S, Beck DL, Crossa J (1992c) Heterosis and combining ability of CIMMYT's tropical × subtropical maize germplasm. Crop Sci 32:1483–1489

    Google Scholar 

  • Vasal SK, Cordova HS, Pandey S, Srinivasan G (1999) Tropical maize and heterosis. Chapter 34. In: Coors JG, Pandey S (eds) The genetics and exploitation of heterosis in crops. CSSA, Madison, Wisconsin

  • Warburton ML, Xia XC, Crossa J, Franco J, Melchinger AE, Frisch M, Bohn M, Hoisington D (2002) Genetic characterisation of CIMMYT maize inbred lines and open-pollinated populations using large scale fingerprinting methods. Crop Sci (in press)

  • Wellhausen EJ (1978) Recent developments in maize breeding in the tropics. In: Walden DB (ed) Maize breeding and genetics. John Wiley and Sons, New York, pp 59–91

  • Wright S (1978) Evolution and genetics of populations, vol. IV. The University of Chicago Press

Download references


The molecular marker analyses of this research were supported by funds from the German "Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung" Project No. 98.7860.4-001-01. Thanks to J. Crossa, G.C. Han, S. Pandey, and G. Srinivasan for providing the field data and seeds for performing this study. This paper is dedicated to Prof. Dr. h. c. F. W. Schnell on the occasion of his 90th birthday.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to A. E. Melchinger.

Additional information

Communicated by F. Salamini

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Reif, J.C., Melchinger, A.E., Xia, X.C. et al. Use of SSRs for establishing heterotic groups in subtropical maize. Theor Appl Genet 107, 947–957 (2003).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: