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G3 (Bethesda). 2011 Nov;1(6):437-50. doi: 10.1534/g3.111.000703. Epub 2011 Nov 1.

QTL Mapping and Candidate Gene Analysis of Telomere Length Control Factors in Maize (Zea mays L.).


Telomere length is a quantitative trait important for many cellular functions. Failure to regulate telomere length contributes to genomic instability, cellular senescence, cancer, and apoptosis in humans, but the functional significance of telomere regulation in plants is much less well understood. To gain a better understanding of telomere biology in plants, we used quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping to identify genetic elements that control telomere length variation in maize (Zea mays L.). For this purpose, we measured the median and mean telomere lengths from 178 recombinant inbred lines of the IBM mapping population and found multiple regions that collectively accounted for 33-38% of the variation in telomere length. Two-way analysis of variance revealed interaction between the quantitative trait loci at genetic bin positions 2.09 and 5.04. Candidate genes within these and other significant QTL intervals, along with select genes known a priori to regulate telomere length, were tested for correlations between expression levels and telomere length in the IBM population and diverse inbred lines by quantitative real-time PCR. A slight but significant positive correlation between expression levels and telomere length was observed for many of the candidate genes, but Ibp2 was a notable exception, showing instead a negative correlation. A rad51-like protein (TEL-MD_5.04) was strongly supported as a candidate gene by several lines of evidence. Our results highlight the value of QTL mapping plus candidate gene expression analysis in a genetically diverse model system for telomere research.


B73; IBM; TRF; plant; telomerase

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