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Genome-wide association study to identify genomic regions influencing spontaneous fertility in maize haploids

Chaikam, Vijay, Gowda, Manje, Nair, Sudha K., Melchinger, Albrecht E., Boddupalli, Prasanna M.
Euphytica 2019 v.215 no.8 pp. 138
Zea mays, agronomic traits, breeding programs, chromosomes, corn, corn ears, doubled haploids, genes, genetic improvement, genome-wide association study, genomics, genotype, germplasm, haploidy, inbred lines, inflorescences, male fertility, plant height, pollen, selfing
Efficient production and use of doubled haploid lines can greatly accelerate genetic gains in maize breeding programs. One of the critical steps in standard doubled haploid line production is doubling the haploid genome using toxic and costly mitosis-inhibiting chemicals to achieve fertility in haploids. Alternatively, fertility may be spontaneously restored by natural chromosomal doubling, although generally at a rate too low for practical applications in most germplasm. This is the first large-scale genome-wise association study to analyze spontaneous chromosome doubling in haploids derived from tropical maize inbred lines. Induction crosses between tropicalized haploid inducers and 400 inbred lines were made, and the resulting haploid plants were assessed for haploid male fertility which refers to pollen production and haploid fertility which refers to seed production upon self-fertilization. A small number of genotypes were highly fertile and these fertility traits were highly heritable. Agronomic traits like plant height, ear height and tassel branch number were positively correlated with fertility traits. In contrast, haploid induction rate of the source germplasm and plant aspect were not correlated to fertility traits. Several genomic regions and candidate genes were identified that may control spontaneous fertility restoration. Overall, the study revealed the presence of large variation for both haploid male fertility and haploid fertility which can be potentially exploited for improving the efficiency of doubled haploid derivation in tropical maize germplasm.