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PLoS One. 2010 Apr 1;5(4):e9958. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009958.

Association and linkage analysis of aluminum tolerance genes in maize.

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United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, Robert W Holley Center for Agriculture and Health, Ithaca, New York, United States of America.



Aluminum (Al) toxicity is a major worldwide constraint to crop productivity on acidic soils. Al becomes soluble at low pH, inhibiting root growth and severely reducing yields. Maize is an important staple food and commodity crop in acidic soil regions, especially in South America and Africa where these soils are very common. Al exclusion and intracellular tolerance have been suggested as two important mechanisms for Al tolerance in maize, but little is known about the underlying genetics.


An association panel of 282 diverse maize inbred lines and three F2 linkage populations with approximately 200 individuals each were used to study genetic variation in this complex trait. Al tolerance was measured as net root growth in nutrient solution under Al stress, which exhibited a wide range of variation between lines. Comparative and physiological genomics-based approaches were used to select 21 candidate genes for evaluation by association analysis.


Six candidate genes had significant results from association analysis, but only four were confirmed by linkage analysis as putatively contributing to Al tolerance: Zea mays AltSB like (ZmASL), Zea mays aluminum-activated malate transporter2 (ALMT2), S-adenosyl-L-homocysteinase (SAHH), and Malic Enzyme (ME). These four candidate genes are high priority subjects for follow-up biochemical and physiological studies on the mechanisms of Al tolerance in maize. Immediately, elite haplotype-specific molecular markers can be developed for these four genes and used for efficient marker-assisted selection of superior alleles in Al tolerance maize breeding programs.

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