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Identification of combining ability loci for five yield-related traits in maize using a set of testcrosses with introgression lines


Combining ability is essential for hybrid breeding in crops. However, the genetic basis of combining ability remains unclear and has been seldom investigated. Identifying molecular markers associated with this complex trait would help to understand its genetic basis and provide useful information for hybrid breeding in maize. In this study, we identified genetic loci of general combining ability (GCA) and specific combining ability (SCA) for five yield-related traits under three environments using a set of testcrosses with introgression lines (ILs). GCA or SCA of the five yield-related traits of the ILs was estimated by the performance of testcrosses with four testers from different heterotic groups. Genetic correlations between GCA of the traits and the corresponding traits per se were not significant or not strong, suggesting that the genetic basis between them is different. A total of 56 significant loci for GCA and 21 loci for SCA were commonly identified in at least two environments, and only 5 loci were simultaneously controlling GCA and SCA, indicating that the genetic basis of GCA and SCA is different. For all of the traits investigated, positive and significant correlations between the number of GCA loci in the ILs and the performance of the corresponding GCA of the ILs were detected, implying that pyramiding GCA loci would have positive effect on the performance of GCA. Results in this study would be useful for maize hybrid breeding.

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General combining ability


Specific combining ability


Quantitative trait loci


Introgression lines






Yield per plant


Plant height


Kernel number per row


Row number


100-Kernel weight


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The authors gratefully thank Mr. Haibin Chang for his technical support in part of the field trails. This work was financially supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (No: 30971791), National Basic Research Program of China (2011CB100100), and Hubei Provincial Natural Science Foundation (No: 2010CBB01902).

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Correspondence to Bing Yue.

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Communicated by T. Luebberstedt.

H. Qi and J. Huang contributed equally to this work.

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Qi, H., Huang, J., Zheng, Q. et al. Identification of combining ability loci for five yield-related traits in maize using a set of testcrosses with introgression lines. Theor Appl Genet 126, 369–377 (2013).

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  • Quantitative Trait Locus
  • General Combine Ability
  • Specific Combine Ability
  • Introgression Line
  • Hybrid Performance