Agronomy and Horticulture Department




Date of this Version



BMC Plant Biology (2017) 17:123


© The Author(s).

Open access

DOI 10.1186/s12870-017-1064-9


Background: Quantitative trait loci (QTLs) detected in one mapping population may not be detected in other mapping populations at all the time. Therefore, before being used for marker assisted breeding, QTLs need to be validated in different environments and/or genetic backgrounds to rule out statistical anomalies. In this regard, we mapped the QTLs controlling various agronomic traits in a recombinant inbred line (RIL) population in response to Nitrogen (N) stress and validated these with the reported QTLs in our earlier study to find the stable and consistent QTLs across populations. Also, with Illumina RNA-sequencing we checked the differential expression of gene (DEG) transcripts between parents and pools of RILs with high and low nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) and overlaid these DEGs on to the common validated QTLs to find candidate genes associated with N-stress tolerance in sorghum.

Results: An F7 RIL population derived from a cross between CK60 (N-stress sensitive) and San Chi San (N-stress tolerant) inbred sorghum lines was used to map QTLs for 11 agronomic traits tested under different N-levels. Composite interval mapping analysis detected a total of 32 QTLs for 11 agronomic traits. Validation of these QTLs revealed that of the detected, nine QTLs from this population were consistent with the reported QTLs in earlier study using CK60/China17 RIL population. The validated QTLs were located on chromosomes 1, 6, 7, 8, and 9. In addition, root transcriptomic profiling detected 55 and 20 differentially expressed gene (DEG) transcripts between parents and pools of RILs with high and low NUE respectively. Also, overlay of these DEG transcripts on to the validated QTLs found candidate genes transcripts for NUE and also showed the expected differential expression. For example, DEG transcripts encoding Lysine histidine transporter 1 (LHT1) had abundant expression in San Chi San and the tolerant RIL pool, whereas DEG transcripts encoding seed storage albumin, transcription factor IIIC (TFIIIC) and dwarfing gene (DW2) encoding multidrug resistance-associated protein-9 homolog showed abundant expression in CK60 parent, similar to earlier study.

Conclusions: The validated QTLs among different mapping populations would be the most reliable and stable QTLs across germplasm. The DEG transcripts found in the validated QTL regions will serve as future candidate genes for enhancing NUE in sorghum using molecular approaches.