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Mol Genet Genomics. 2013 Dec;288(12):691-705. doi: 10.1007/s00438-013-0781-5. Epub 2013 Oct 22.

Identification and characterization of a repertoire of genes differentially expressed in developing top ear shoots between a superior hybrid and its parental inbreds in Zea mays L.

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  • 1Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, 77843, USA.


Heterosis has been widely used in crop breeding and production; however, little is known about the genes controlling trait heterosis. The shortage of genes known to function in heterosis significantly limits our understanding of the molecular basis underlying heterosis. Here, we report 748 genes differentially expressed (DG) in the developing top ear shoots between a maize heterotic F1 hybrid (Mo17 × B73) and its parental inbreds identified using maize microarrays containing 28,608 unigene features. Of the 748 DG, over 600 were new for the inbred and hybrid combination. The DG were enriched for 35 of the total 213 maize gene ontology (GO) terms, including those describing photosynthesis, respiration, DNA replication, metabolism, and hormone biosynthesis. From the DG, we identified six genes involved in glycolysis, three genes in the citrate cycle, and four genes in the C4-dicarboxylic acid cycle. We mapped 533 of the 748 DG to the maize B73 genome, 298 (55.9 %) of which mapped to the QTL intervals of 11 maize ear traits. Moreover, we compared the repertoire of the DG with that of 14-day seedlings of the same inbred and hybrid combination. Only approximately 5 % of the DG was shared between the two organs and developmental stages. Furthermore, we mapped 417 (55.7 %) of the 748 maize DG to the QTL intervals of 26 rice yield-related traits. Therefore, this study provides a repertoire of genes useful for identification of genes involved in maize ear trait heterosis and information for a better understanding of the molecular basis underlying heterosis in maize.

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