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PLoS One. 2014 Jan 29;9(1):e87330. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0087330. eCollection 2014.

Whole-genome quantitative trait locus mapping reveals major role of epistasis on yield of rice.

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Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, United State of America.
Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, University of California Riverside, Riverside, California, United State of America.


Although rice yield has been doubled in most parts of the world since 1960s, thanks to the advancements in breeding technologies, the biological mechanisms controlling yield are largely unknown. To understand the genetic basis of rice yield, a number of quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping studies have been carried out, but whole-genome QTL mapping incorporating all interaction effects is still lacking. In this paper, we exploited whole-genome markers of an immortalized F2 population derived from an elite rice hybrid to perform QTL mapping for rice yield characterized by yield per plant and three yield component traits. Our QTL model includes additive and dominance main effects of 1,619 markers and all pair-wise interactions, with a total of more than 5 million possible effects. The QTL mapping identified 54, 5, 28 and 4 significant effects involving 103, 9, 52 and 7 QTLs for the four traits, namely the number of panicles per plant, the number of grains per panicle, grain weight, and yield per plant. Most identified QTLs are involved in digenic interactions. An extensive literature survey of experimentally characterized genes related to crop yield shows that 19 of 54 effects, 4 of 5 effects, 12 of 28 effects and 2 of 4 effects for the four traits, respectively, involve at least one QTL that locates within 2 cM distance to at least one yield-related gene. This study not only reveals the major role of epistasis influencing rice yield, but also provides a set of candidate genetic loci for further experimental investigation.

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