Large effect QTL explain natural phenotypic variation for the developmental timing of vegetative phase change in maize (Zea mays L.)
Natural variation for the timing of vegetative phase change in maize is controlled by several large effect loci, one corresponding toGlossy15, a gene known for regulating juvenile tissue traits.
Vegetative phase change is an intrinsic component of developmental programs in plants. Juvenile and adult vegetative tissues in grasses differ dramatically in their anatomical and biochemical composition affecting the utility of specific genotypes as animal feed and biofuel feedstock. The molecular network controlling the process of developmental transition is incompletely characterized. In this study, we used scoring for juvenile and adult epicuticular wax as an entry point to discover quantitative trait loci (QTL) controlling phenotypic variation for the developmental timing of juvenile to adult transition in maize. We scored the last leaf with juvenile wax on 25 recombinant inbred line families of the B73 reference Nested Association Mapping (NAM) population and the intermated B73×Mo17 (IBM) population across multiple seasons. A total of 13 unique QTL were identified through genome-wide association analysis across the NAM populations, three of which have large effects. A QTL located on chromosome nine had the most significant SNPs within Glossy15, a gene controlling expression of juvenile leaf traits. The second large effect QTL is located on chromosome two. The most significant SNP in this QTL is located adjacent to a homolog of the Arabidopsis transcription factor, enhanced downy mildew-2, which has been shown to promote the transition from juvenile to adult vegetative phase. Overall, these results show that several major QTL and potential candidate genes underlie the extensive natural variation for this developmental trait.
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