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Plant Physiol. 2003 Feb;131(2):664-75.

Combining quantitative trait Loci analysis and an ecophysiological model to analyze the genetic variability of the responses of maize leaf growth to temperature and water deficit.

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Laboratoire d'Ecophysiologie des Plantes sous Stress Environnementaux, (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique-Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Agronomie de Montpellier) 2, Place Viala, F-34060 Montpellier cedex, France.


Ecophysiological models predict quantitative traits of one genotype in any environment, whereas quantitative trait locus (QTL) models predict the contribution of alleles to quantitative traits under a limited number of environments. We have combined both approaches by dissecting into effects of QTLs the parameters of a model of maize (Zea mays) leaf elongation rate (LER; H. Ben Haj Salah, F. Tardieu [1997] Plant Physiol 114: 893-900). Response curves of LER to meristem temperature, water vapor pressure difference, and soil water status were established in 100 recombinant inbred lines (RILs) of maize in six experiments carried out in the field or in the greenhouse. All responses were linear and common to different experiments, consistent with the model. A QTL analysis was carried out on the slopes of these responses by composite interval mapping confirmed by bootstrap analysis. Most QTLs were specific of one response only. QTLs of abscisic acid concentration in the xylem sap colocalized with QTLs of response to soil water deficit and conferred a low response. Each parameter of the ecophysiological model was computed as the sum of QTL effects, allowing calculation of parameters for 11 new RILs and two parental lines. LERs were simulated and compared with measurements in a growth chamber experiment. The combined model accounted for 74% of the variability of LER, suggesting that it has a general value for any RIL under any environment.

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