J Integr Plant Biol. ›› 2016, Vol. 58 ›› Issue (3): 242-253.DOI: 10.1111/jipb.12384

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Use of genotype-environment interactions to elucidate the pattern of maize root plasticity to nitrogen deficiency

Pengcheng Li1,2, Zhongjuan Zhuang1,3, Hongguang Cai1,4, Shuai Cheng1, Ayaz Ali Soomro1, Zhigang Liu1, Riliang Gu1, Guohua Mi1, Lixing Yuan1 and Fanjun Chen1*   

  1. 1Key Lab of Plant-Soil Interaction, MOE, Center for Resources, Environment and Food Security, College Resources and Environmental Sciences, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China
    2Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Crop Genetics and Physiology/Co-Innovation Center for Modern Production Technology of Grain Crops, Key Laboratory of Plant Functional Genomics of the Ministry of Education, Yangzhou University, Yangzhou, China
    3Leading Bio-agricultural Co., Ltd., Qinhuangdao, China
    4Institute of Agricultural Resource and Environment, Jilin Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Changchun, China
  • Received:2015-05-03 Accepted:2015-08-10 Published:2016-03-18
  • About author:*Correspondence: E-mail: caucfj@cau.edu.cn


Maize (Zea mays L.) root morphology exhibits a high degree of phenotypic plasticity to nitrogen (N) deficiency, but the underlying genetic architecture remains to be investigated. Using an advanced BC4F3 population, we investigated the root growth plasticity under two contrasted N levels and identified the quantitative trait loci (QTLs) with QTL-environment (Q × E) interaction effects. Principal components analysis (PCA) on changes of root traits to N deficiency (ΔLN-HN) showed that root length and biomass contributed for 45.8% in the same magnitude and direction on the first PC, while root traits scattered highly on PC2 and PC3. Hierarchical cluster analysis on traits for ΔLN-HN further assigned the BC4F3 lines into six groups, in which the special phenotypic responses to N deficiency was presented. These results revealed the complicated root plasticity of maize in response to N deficiency that can be caused by genotype-environment (G × E) interactions. Furthermore, QTL mapping using a multi-environment analysis identified 35 QTLs for root traits. Nine of these QTLs exhibited significant Q × E interaction effects. Taken together, our findings contribute to understanding the phenotypic and genotypic pattern of root plasticity to N deficiency, which will be useful for developing maize tolerance cultivars to N deficiency.

Key words: Genotype-environment interactions, nitrogen stress, quantitative trait locus, root morphology, root plasticity, Zea mays L

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