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BMC Genomics. 2017 Dec 4;18(1):941. doi: 10.1186/s12864-017-4297-y.

Genetic diversity and association mapping of mineral element concentrations in spinach leaves.

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Department of Horticulture, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, 72701, USA.
Department of Horticulture, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, 72701, USA.
Crop Improvement and Protection Research Unit, USDA-ARS, Salinas, CA, 93905, USA.
USDA-ARS Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center, Fargo, ND, 58102, USA.
Department of Horticulture, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, 72701, USA.



Spinach is a useful source of dietary vitamins and mineral elements. Breeding new spinach cultivars with high nutritional value is one of the main goals in spinach breeding programs worldwide, and identification of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers for mineral element concentrations is necessary to support spinach molecular breeding. The purpose of this study was to conduct a genome-wide association study (GWAS) and to identify SNP markers associated with mineral elements in the USDA-GRIN spinach germplasm collection.


A total of 14 mineral elements: boron (B), calcium (Ca), cobalt (Co), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), sodium (Na), nickel (Ni), phosphorus (P), sulfur (S), and zinc (Zn) were evaluated in 292 spinach accessions originally collected from 29 countries. Significant genetic variations were found among the tested genotypes as evidenced by the 2 to 42 times difference in mineral concentrations. A total of 2402 SNPs identified from genotyping by sequencing (GBS) approach were used for genetic diversity and GWAS. Six statistical methods were used for association analysis. Forty-five SNP markers were identified to be strongly associated with the concentrations of 13 mineral elements. Only two weakly associated SNP markers were associated with K concentration. Co-localized SNPs for different elemental concentrations were discovered in this research. Three SNP markers, AYZV02017731_40, AYZV02094133_57, and AYZV02281036_185 were identified to be associated with concentrations of four mineral components, Co, Mn, S, and Zn. There is a high validating correlation coefficient with r > 0.7 among concentrations of the four elements. Thirty-one spinach accessions, which rank in the top three highest concentrations in each of the 14 mineral elements, were identified as potential parents for spinach breeding programs in the future.


The 45 SNP markers strongly associated with the concentrations of the 13 mineral elements: B, Ca, Co, Cu, Fe, Mg, Mn, Mo, Na, Ni, P, S, and Zn could be used in breeding programs to improve the nutritional quality of spinach through marker-assisted selection (MAS). The 31 spinach accessions with high concentrations of one to several mineral elements can be used as potential parents for spinach breeding programs.


Genome-wide association study (GWAS); Genotyping by sequencing (GBS); Mineral elements; Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP); Spinach; Spinacia oleracea L.

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