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Theor Appl Genet. 2007 Mar;114(5):815-22. Epub 2006 Dec 16.

Genetic mapping of sulfur assimilation genes reveals a QTL for onion bulb pungency.

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New Zealand Institute for Crop & Food Research Limited, Private Bag 4704, Christchurch, New Zealand.


Onion exhibits wide genetic and environmental variation in bioactive organosulfur compounds that impart pungency and health benefits. A PCR-based molecular marker map that included candidate genes for sulfur assimilation was used to identify genomic regions affecting pungency in the cross 'W202A' x 'Texas Grano 438'. Linkage mapping revealed that genes encoding plastidic ferredoxin-sulfite reductase (SiR) and plastidic ATP sulfurylase (ATPS) are closely linked (1-2 cM) on chromosome 3. Inbred F(3) families derived from the F(2 )population used to construct the genetic map were grown in replicated trials in two environments and bulb pungency was evaluated as pyruvic acid or lachrymatory factor. Broad-sense heritability of pungency was estimated to be 0.78-0.80. QTL analysis revealed significant associations of both pungency and bulb soluble solids content with marker intervals on chromosomes 3 and 5, which have previously been reported to condition pleiotropic effects on bulb carbohydrate composition. Highly significant associations (LOD 3.7-8.7) were observed between ATPS and SiR Loci and bulb pungency but not with bulb solids content. This association was confirmed in two larger, independently derived F(2) families from the same cross. Single-locus models suggested that the partially dominant locus associated with these candidate genes controls 30-50% of genetic variation in pungency in these pedigrees. These markers may provide a practical means to select for lower pungency without correlated selection for lowered solids.

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