Detection of quantitative trait loci for seminal root traits in maize (Zea mays L.) seedlings grown under differential phosphorus levels


Zhu, J.M.; Mickelson, S.M.; Kaeppler, S.M.; Lynch, J.P.


TAG Theoretical and Applied Genetics, Springer-Verlag GmbH, Volume 113, Issue 1, Germany, p.1-10 (2006)

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Suboptimal phosphorus availability is a primary constraint for terrestrial plant growth. Seminal roots play an important role in acquisition of nutrients by plant seedlings. The length and number of seminal roots may be particularly important in acquisition of immobile nutrients such as phosphorus by increasing soil exploration. The objective of this study was to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) controlling seminal root growth in response to phosphorus stress in maize, and to characterize epistatic interactions among QTL. Seminal root length and number were evaluated in 162 recombinant inbred lines derived from a cross between B73 and Mo17 in seedlings grown in a controlled environment. B73 and Mo17 significantly differed for seminal root length under low phosphorus, but not under adequate phosphorus conditions. Seminal root length of the population grown under low phosphorus ranged from 0 to 79.2 cm with a mean of 32.3 cm; while seminal root length of plants grown under high phosphorus ranged from 0.67 to 59.0 cm with a mean of 23.4 cm. Under low phosphorus, one main-effect QTL was associated with seminal root length and three QTL with seminal root number; under high phosphorus, two QTL with seminal root length and three QTL for seminal root number. These accounted for 11, 25.4, 22.8, and 24.1% of the phenotypic variations for seminal root length and number at low phosphorus, and seminal root length and number at high phosphorus, respectively. Digenic epistatic loci were detected for seminal root length at low phosphorus (two pairs) seminal root number at low phosphorus (eight pairs), seminal root length at high phosphorus (four pairs), and seminal root number at high phosphorus (two pairs), which accounted for 23.2, 50.6, 32.2, and 20.3% of the total variations, respectively. Seminal root traits observed here were positively yet weakly correlated with shoot biomass in the field under low phosphorus, although no coincident QTL were detected. These results suggest that epistatic interactions are important in controlling genotypic variation associated with seedling seminal root traits.