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Plant Physiol. 2017 Oct;175(2):774-785. doi: 10.1104/pp.17.00708. Epub 2017 Aug 15.

The Conserved and Unique Genetic Architecture of Kernel Size and Weight in Maize and Rice.

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National Key Laboratory of Crop Genetic Improvement, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan 430070, China.
National Maize Improvement Center of China, MOA Key Laboratory of Maize Biology, Beijing Key Laboratory of Crop Genetic Improvement, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China.
National Key Laboratory of Crop Genetic Improvement, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan 430070, China


Maize (Zea mays) is a major staple crop. Maize kernel size and weight are important contributors to its yield. Here, we measured kernel length, kernel width, kernel thickness, hundred kernel weight, and kernel test weight in 10 recombinant inbred line populations and dissected their genetic architecture using three statistical models. In total, 729 quantitative trait loci (QTLs) were identified, many of which were identified in all three models, including 22 major QTLs that each can explain more than 10% of phenotypic variation. To provide candidate genes for these QTLs, we identified 30 maize genes that are orthologs of 18 rice (Oryza sativa) genes reported to affect rice seed size or weight. Interestingly, 24 of these 30 genes are located in the identified QTLs or within 1 Mb of the significant single-nucleotide polymorphisms. We further confirmed the effects of five genes on maize kernel size/weight in an independent association mapping panel with 540 lines by candidate gene association analysis. Lastly, the function of ZmINCW1, a homolog of rice GRAIN INCOMPLETE FILLING1 that affects seed size and weight, was characterized in detail. ZmINCW1 is close to QTL peaks for kernel size/weight (less than 1 Mb) and contains significant single-nucleotide polymorphisms affecting kernel size/weight in the association panel. Overexpression of this gene can rescue the reduced weight of the Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) homozygous mutant line in the AtcwINV2 gene (Arabidopsis ortholog of ZmINCW1). These results indicate that the molecular mechanisms affecting seed development are conserved in maize, rice, and possibly Arabidopsis.

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