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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 May 2;103(18):6805-10. Epub 2006 Apr 25.

All possible modes of gene action are observed in a global comparison of gene expression in a maize F1 hybrid and its inbred parents.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA.


Heterosis is the phenomenon whereby the progeny of particular inbred lines have enhanced agronomic performance relative to both parents. Although several hypotheses have been proposed to explain this fundamental biological phenomenon, the responsible molecular mechanisms have not been determined. The maize inbred lines B73 and Mo17 produce a heterotic F1 hybrid. Global patterns of gene expression were compared in seedlings of these three genotypes by using a microarray that contains 13,999 cDNAs. Using an estimated 15% false discovery rate as a cutoff, 1,367 ESTs (9.8%) were identified as being significantly differentially expressed among genotypes. All possible modes of gene action were observed, including additivity, high- and low-parent dominance, underdominance, and overdominance. The largest proportion of the ESTs (78%; 1,062 of 1,367) exhibited expression patterns that are not statistically distinguishable from additivity. Even so, 22% of the differentially regulated ESTs exhibited nonadditive modes of gene expression. Classified on the basis of significant pairwise comparisons of genotype means, 181 of these 305 nonadditive ESTs exhibited high-parent dominance and 23 exhibited low-parent dominance. In addition, 44 ESTs exhibited underdominance or overdominance. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that multiple molecular mechanisms, including overdominance, contribute to heterosis.

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