High-Oil Maize Genomics

  • Xiaohong Yang
  • Jiansheng LiEmail author
Part of the Compendium of Plant Genomes book series (CPG)


High-oil maize is a crop developed by artificial selection. Maize oil is high in energy and levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which makes high-oil maize a popular resource for food, feed, and bioenergy. Multiple high-oil germplasm resources have been developed, mainly including the Illinois High-Oil (IHO), Alexho synthetic, and Beijing High-Oil (BHO) populations. Yet, the molecular mechanisms underlying oil biosynthesis and accumulation are not well understood. Historically, quantitative genetic approaches like QTL mapping, and recently developed association mapping, have been utilized to understand the genetic architecture of oil biosynthesis and accumulation in maize kernels. Subsequently, the genes related to oil biosynthesis and accumulation were cloned by homolog-based cloning, position cloning, and association mapping. These cloned genes are involved in the oil metabolic pathway, transcription factors, and regulators controlling oil storage organ. Favorable alleles of most cloned genes for kernel oil-related traits were mined and are promising targets for improving oil quantity and quality in maize. The successful and effective transformation of the favorable allele of DGAT1-2 into elite maize hybrids confirms the effectiveness of these favorable alleles in the manipulation of oil quantity and quality.



We greatly appreciate Dr. Gen Xu in our laboratory for preparing two figures and reference list in this chapter. The funding is supported by the National Natural Foundation of China (31722039, 31361140362).


  1. Alrefai R, Berke TG, Rocheford TR (1995) Quantitative trait locus analysis of fatty acid concentrations in maize. Genome 38(5):894–901CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baud S, Lepiniec L (2010) Physiological and developmental regulation of seed oil production. Prog Lipid Res 49(3):235–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baud S, Mendoza MS, To A, Harscoet E, Lepiniec L, Dubreucq B (2007) WRINKLED1 specifies the regulatory action of LEAFY COTYLEDON2 towards fatty acid metabolism during seed maturation in Arabidopsis. Plant J 50(5):825–838CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beisson F, Koo A, Ruuska S, Schwender J, Pollard M, Thelen J, Paddock T, Salas J, Savage L, Milcamps A (2003) Census of the candidates, a study of the distribution of expressed sequence tags in organs, and a web-based database. Plant Physiol 132:681–697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beló A, Zheng P, Luck S, Shen B, Meyer DJ, Li B, Tingey S, Rafalski A (2008) Whole genome scan detects an allelic variant of fad2 associated with increased oleic acid levels in maize. Mol Genet Genomics 279(1):1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Benitez J, Gernat A, Murillo J, Araba M (1999) The use of high oil corn in broiler diets. Poult Sci 78(6):861–865CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cahoon RE, Heppard EP, Nagasawa N, Sakai H (2003) Alteration of embryo/endosperm size during seed development. US Patent 20,030,126,645Google Scholar
  8. Chai Y, Hao X, Yang X, Allen WB, Li J, Yan J, Shen B, Li J (2011) Validation of DGAT1-2 polymorphisms associated with oil content and development of functional markers for molecular breeding of high-oil maize. Mol Breed 29(4):939–949CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clark D, Dudley JW, Rocheford TR, LeDeaux JR (2006) Genetic analysis of corn kernel chemical composition in the random mated 10 generation of the cross of generations 70 of IHO × ILO. Crop Sci 46(2):807CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cook JP, McMullen MD, Holland JB, Tian F, Bradbury P, Ross-Ibarra J, Buckler ES, Flint-Garcia SA (2012) Genetic architecture of maize kernel composition in the nested association mapping and inbred association panels. Plant Physiol 158(2):824–834CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Du H, Huang M, Hu J, Li J (2016) Modification of the fatty acid composition in Arabidopsis and maize seeds using a stearoyl-acyl carrier protein desaturase-1 (ZmSAD1) gene. BMC Plant Biol 16(1):137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dudley JW (1977) Seventy-six generation of selection for oil and protein percentage in maize. In: Pollak E (ed) Proceedings of international conference on quantitative genetics. Iowa State University Press, Ames, pp 459–473Google Scholar
  13. Dudley JW, Lambert RJ (2004) 100 generations of selection for oil and protein in corn. Plant Breed Rev 24:79–110Google Scholar
  14. Dudley JW (2008) Epistatic interactions in crosses of Illinois High Oil × Illinois Low Oil and of Illinois High Protein × Illinois Low Protein corn strains. Crop Sci 48(1):59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dudley JW, Clark D, Rocheford TR, LeDeaux JR (2007) Genetic analysis of corn kernel chemical composition in the random mated 7 generation of the cross of generations 70 of IHP × ILP. Crop Sci 47(1):45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fisher RA (1918) The correlations between relatives on the supposition of Mendelian inheritance. Philos Trans R Soc Edinb 52:399–433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Flint-Garcia SA, Thornsberry JM, Buckler ES (2003) Structure of linkage disequilibrium in plants. Annu Rev Plant Biol 54(1):357–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fu J, Cheng Y, Linghu J, Yang X, Kang L, Zhang Z, Zhang J, He C, Du X, Peng Z, Wang B, Zhai L, Dai C, Xu J, Wang W, Li X, Zheng J, Chen L, Luo L, Liu J, Qian X, Yan J, Wang J, Wang G (2013) RNA sequencing reveals the complex regulatory network in the maize kernel. Nat Commun 4:2832Google Scholar
  19. Goldman IL, Rocheford TR, Dudley JW (1994) Molecular markers associated with maize kernel oil concentration in an Illinois high protein × Illinois low protein cross. Crop Sci 34(4):908–915CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Han Y, Parsons C, Alexander D (1987) Nutritive value of high oil corn for poultry. Poult Sci 66(1):103–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Han Y, Xu G, Du H, Hu J, Liu Z, Li H, Li J, Yang X (2017) Natural variations in stearoyl-acp desaturase genes affect the conversion of stearic to oleic acid in maize kernel. Theor Appl Genet 130(1):151–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hao X, Li X, Yang X, Li J (2014) Transferring a major QTL for oil content using marker-assisted backcrossing into an elite hybrid to increase the oil content in maize. Mol Breeding 34(2):739–748CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hopkins CG (1899) Improvement in the chemical composition of the corn kernel In: Dudley JW (ed) Seventy generation of selection for oil and protein in maize. ASA, CSSA, and SSSA, Madison, WI, pp 1–31Google Scholar
  24. Jiao Y, Peluso P, Shi JH, Liang T, Stitzer MC, Wang B, Campbell MS, Stein JC, Wei W, Chin CS, Guill K, Regulski M, Kumari S, Olson A, Gent J, Schneider KL, Wolfgruber TK, May MR, Springer NM, Antoniou E, McCombie WR, Presting GG, McMullen M, Ross-Ibarra J, Dawe RK, Hastie A, Rank DR, Ware D (2017) Improved maize reference genome with single-molecule technologies. Nature 546:524–527Google Scholar
  25. Karn A, Gillman JD, Flint-Garcia SA (2017) Genetic analysis of teosinte alleles for kernel composition traits in maize. G3 7(4):1157–1164Google Scholar
  26. Koh HJ, Heu MH, McCouch SR (1996) Molecular mapping of the ge s gene controlling the super-giant embryo character in rice (Oryza sativa L.). Theor Appl Genet 93(1):257–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lambert RJ, Alexander D, Mejaya I (2004) Single kernel selection for increased grain oil in maize synthetics and high-oil hybrid development. Plant Breed Rev 24:153–175Google Scholar
  28. Lambert RJ (2001) High-oil corn hybrids. In: Hallau AR (ed) Special corn. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 131–153Google Scholar
  29. Laurie CC, Chasalow SD, LeDeaux JR, McCarroll R, Bush D, Hauge B, Lai C, Clark D, Rocheford TR, Dudley JW (2004) The genetic architecture of response to long-term artificial selection for oil concentration in the maize kernel. Genetics 168(4):2141–2155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Leng ER (1962) Results of long term selection for chemical composition in maize and their significance in evaluating breeding systems In: Dudley JW (ed) Seventy generations of selection for oil and protein in Maize. ASA, CSSA, and SSSA, Madison, pp 149–173Google Scholar
  31. Li-Beisson Y, Shorrosh B, Beisson F, Andersson MX, Arondel V, Bates PD, Baud S, Bird D, DeBono A, Durrett TP, Franke RB, Graham LA, Katayama K, Kelly AA, Larson T, Markham JE, Miquel M, Molina I, Nishida I, Rowland O, Samuels L, Schmid KM, Wada H, Welti R, Xu C, Zallot R, Ohlrogge J (2010) Acyl-lipid metabolism. Arabidopsis Book 8(8):e0133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Li H, Peng Z, Yang X, Wang W, Fu J, Wang J, Han Y, Chai Y, Guo T, Yang N, Liu J, Warburton ML, Cheng Y, Hao X, Zhang P, Zhao J, Liu Y, Wang G, Li J, Yan J (2013) Genome-wide association study dissects the genetic architecture of oil biosynthesis in maize kernels. Nat Genet 45(1):43–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Li L, Li H, Li Q, Yang X, Zheng D, Warburton M, Chai Y, Zhang P, Guo Y, Yan J, Li J (2011) An 11-bp insertion in Zea mays fatb reduces the palmitic acid content of fatty acids in maize grain. PLoS ONE 6(9):e24699CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Li Q, Yang H, Xu S, Cai Y, Zhang D, Han Y, Li L, Zhang Z, Gao S, Li J, Yan J (2012) Genome-wide association studies identified three independent polymorphisms associated with α-Tocopherol content in maize kernels. PLoS ONE 7(5):e36807CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lucas CJ, Zhao H, Schneerman M, Moose SP (2013) Genomic changes in response to 110 cycles of selection for seed protein and oil concentration in maize. In: Becraft PW (ed) Seed genomics. Wiley, pp 217–238Google Scholar
  36. Môro GV, Santos MF, Bento DAV, Aguiar AM, de Souza CL (2012) Genetic analysis of kernel oil content in tropical maize with design III and QTL mapping. Euphytica 185(3):419–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mangolin C, De Souza C, Garcia A, Garcia A, Sibov S, de Souza A (2004) Mapping QTLs for kernel oil content in a tropical maize population. Euphytica 137(2):251–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McMullen MD, Kresovich S, Villeda HS, Bradbury P, Li H, Sun Q, Flint-Garcia S, Thornsberry J, Acharya C, Bottoms C (2009) Genetic properties of the maize nested association mapping population. Science 325(5941):737–740CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Merlo AO, Cowen N, Delate T, Edington B, Folkerts O, Hopkins N, Lemeiux C, Skokut T, Smith K, Woosley A (1998) Ribozymes targeted to Stearoyl–ACP Δ9 Desaturase mRNA produce heritable increases of stearic acid in transgenic maize leaves. Plant Cell 10(10):1603–1621PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  40. Mikkilineni V, Rocheford TR (2003) Sequence variation and genomic organization of fatty acid desaturase-2 (fad2) and fatty acid desaturase-6 (fad6) cDNAs in maize. Theor Appl Genet 106(7):1326–1332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Miller R, Dudley J, Alexander D (1981) High intensity selection for percent oil in corn. Crop Sci 21(3):433–437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mišević D, Alexander D (1989) Twenty-four cycles of phenotypic recurrent selection for percent oil in maize. I. Per se and test-cross performance. Crop Sci 29(2):320–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Moose SP, Dudley JW, Rocheford TR (2004) Maize selection passes the century mark: a unique resource for 21st century genomics. Trends Plant Sci 9(7):358–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Moreno-Gonzalez J, Dudley J, Lambert R (1975) A design III study of linkage disequilibrium for percent oil in maize. Crop Sci 15(6):840–843CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ramsden CE, Zamora D, Leelarthaepin B, Majchrzak-Hong SF, Faurot KR, Suchindran CM, Ringel A, Davis JM, Hibbeln JR (2013) Use of dietary linoleic acid for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease and death: evaluation of recovered data from the Sydney Diet Heart Study and updated meta-analysis. BMJ 346:e8707CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Salvi S, Tuberosa R (2005) To clone or not to clone plant QTLs: present and future challenges. Trends Plant Sci 10(6):297–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Shen B, Allen WB, Zheng P, Li C, Glassman K, Ranch J, Nubel D, Tarczynski MC (2010) Expression of ZmLEC1 and ZmWRI1 increases seed oil production in maize. Plant Physiol 153(3):980–987CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Shen B, Roesler K (2017) Maize kenerl oil content In: Larkins BA (eds) Maize kernel development. Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International, pp 160–174Google Scholar
  49. Shintani DK, Ohlrogge JB (1994) The characterization of a mitochondrial acyl carrier protein isoform isolated from Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant Physiol 104(4):1221–1229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Song T, Chen S (2004) Long term selection for oil concentration in five maize populations. Maydica 49:9–14Google Scholar
  51. Song X, Song T, Dai J, Rocheford TR, Li J (2004) QTL mapping of kernel oil concentration with high-oil maize by SSR markers. Maydica 49:41–48Google Scholar
  52. Val LD, Schwartz SH, Kerns MR, Deikman J (2009) Development of a high oil trait for maize. In: Molecular genetic approaches to maize improvement. Springer, Berlin, pp 303–323Google Scholar
  53. Wang H, Wu B, Song T, Chen S (2009) Effects of long-term selection for kernel oil concentration in KYHO, a high-oil maize population. Crop Sci 49(2):459CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Wang Z, Liu N, Ku L, Tian Z, Shi Y, Guo S, Su H, Zhang L, Ren Z, Li G, Wang X, Zhu Y, Qi J, Zhang X, Chen Y, Lübberstedt T (2016) Dissection of the genetic architecture for grain quality-related traits in three RIL populations of maize (Zea mays L.). Plant Breeding 135(1):38–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wassom JJ, Wong JC, Martinez E, King JJ, DeBaene J, Hotchkiss JR, Mikkilineni V, Bohn MO, Rocheford TR (2008a) QTL Associated with maize kernel oil, protein, and starch concentrations; kernel mass; and grain yield in Illinois high oil × B73 backcross-derived lines. Crop Sci 48(1):243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wassom JJ, Mikkelineni V, Bohn MO, Rocheford TR (2008b) QTL for fatty acid composition of maize kernel oil in Illinois High Oil × B73 backcross-derived lines. Crop Sci 48(1):69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Weber EJ (1987) Lipids of the kernel. In: Watson SA, Ramstad PE (eds) Corn: chemistry and technology. American Association of Cereal Chemists, St. Paul, pp 311–349Google Scholar
  58. Xiao Y, Liu H, Wu L, Warburton M, Yan J (2017) Genome-wide association studies in maize: praise and stargaze. Mol Plant 10(3):359–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Yan J, Warburton M, Crouch J (2011) Association mapping for enhancing maize (Zea mays L.) genetic improvement. Crop Sci 51(2):433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Yang G, Li Y, Wang Q, Zhou Y, Zhou Q, Shen B, Zhang F, Liang X (2012) Detection and integration of quantitative trait loci for grain yield components and oil content in two connected recombinant inbred line populations of high-oil maize. Mol Breeding 29(2):313–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Yang X, Guo Y, Yan J, Zhang J, Song T, Rocheford TR, Li J (2010) Major and minor QTL and epistasis contribute to fatty acid compositions and oil concentration in high-oil maize. Theor Appl Genet 120(3):665–678CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Yang X, Ma H, Zhang P, Yan J, Guo Y, Song T, Li J (2012) Characterization of QTL for oil content in maize kernel. Theor Appl Genet 125(6):1169–1179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Yu J, Holland JB, McMullen MD, Buckler ES (2008) Genetic design and statistical power of nested association mapping in maize. Genetics 178(1):539–551CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Zhang H, Jin T, Huang Y, Chen J, Zhu L, Zhao Y, Guo J (2015) Identification of quantitative trait loci underlying the protein, oil and starch contents of maize in multiple environments. Euphytica 205(1):169–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Zhang J, Lu X, Song X, Yan J, Song T, Dai J, Rocheford TR, Li J (2008) Mapping quantitative trait loci for oil, starch, and protein concentrations in grain with high-oil maize by SSR markers. Euphytica 162(3):335–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Zhang P, Allen WB, Nagasawa N, Ching AS, Heppard EP, Li H, Hao X, Li X, Yang X, Yan J, Nagato Y, Sakai H, Shen B, Li J (2012) A transposable element insertion within ZmGE2 gene is associated with increase in embryo to endosperm ratio in maize. Theor Appl Genet 125(7):1463–1471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Zheng P, Allen WB, Roesler K, Williams ME, Zhang S, Li J, Glassman K, Ranch J, Nubel D, Solawetz W, Bhattramakki D, Llaca V, Deschamps S, Zhong G, Tarczynski MC, Shen B (2008) A phenylalanine in DGAT is a key determinant of oil content and composition in maize. Nat Genet 40(3):367–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Zheng P, Babar MD, Parthasarathy S, Gibson R, Parliament K, Flook J, Patterson T, Friedemann P, Kumpatla S, Thompson S (2014) A truncated FatB resulting from a single nucleotide insertion is responsible for reducing saturated fatty acids in maize seed oil. Theor Appl Genet 127(7):1537–1547CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, National Maize Improvement Center of ChinaChina Agricultural UniversityBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations