Analysis of the genetic basis of plant height-related traits in response to ethylene by QTL mapping in maize (Zea mays L.)
Ethylene (ET) is critical importance in the growth, development, and stress responses of plants. Plant hormonal stress responses have been extensively studied, however, the role of ET in plant growth, especially plant height (PH) remains unclear. Understanding the genetic control for PH in response to ET will provide insights into the regulation of maize development. To clarify the genetic basis of PH-related traits of maize in response to ET, we mapped QTLs for PH, ear height (EH), and internode length above the uppermost ear (ILAU) in two recombinant inbred line (RIL) populations of Zea mays after ET treatment and in an untreated control (CK) group. Sixty QTLs for the three traits were identified. Twenty-two QTLs were simultaneously detected under both ET treatment and untreated control, and five QTLs were detected at two geographic locations under ET treatment only. Individual QTL can be explained 3.87–17.71% of the phenotypic variance. One QTL (q2PH9-1, q1PH9, q1EH9/q1ILAU9-1, q2ILAU9, and q2EH9) for the measured traits (PH, EH, ILAU) was consistent across both populations. Two QTLs (q2PH2-5, q2ILAU2-2, q1PH2-2, and q1ILAU2-2; q1PH8-1, q1EH8-1, q2PH8-1) were identified for up to two traits in both locations and populations under both ET treatment and untreated control. These consistent and stable regions are important QTLs of potential hot spots for PH, ear height (EH), and internode length above the uppermost ear (ILAU) response to ET in maize; therefore, QTL fine-mapping and putative candidate genes validation should enable the cloning of PH, EH, and ILAU related genes to ET response. These results will be valuable for further fine-mapping and quantitative trait nucleotides (QTNs) determination, and elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms of ET responses in maize.