Agronomy and Horticulture, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version



Hartwig et al. Genome Biology (2023) 24:108


Open access.


Background: Genetic variation in regulatory sequences that alter transcription factor (TF) binding is a major cause of phenotypic diversity. Brassinosteroid is a growth hormone that has major effects on plant phenotypes. Genetic variation in brassinosteroidresponsive cis-elements likely contributes to trait variation. Pinpointing such regulatory variations and quantitative genomic analysis of the variation in TF-target binding, however, remains challenging. How variation in transcriptional targets of signaling pathways such as the brassinosteroid pathway contributes to phenotypic variation is an important question to be investigated with innovative approaches.

Results: Here, we use a hybrid allele-specific chromatin binding sequencing (HASChseq) approach and identify variations in target binding of the brassinosteroid-responsive TF ZmBZR1 in maize. HASCh-seq in the B73xMo17 F1s identifies thousands of target genes of ZmBZR1. Allele-specific ZmBZR1 binding (ASB) has been observed for 18.3% of target genes and is enriched in promoter and enhancer regions. About a quarter of the ASB sites correlate with sequence variation in BZR1-binding motifs and another quarter correlate with haplotype-specific DNA methylation, suggesting that both genetic and epigenetic variations contribute to the high level of variation in ZmBZR1 occupancy. Comparison with GWAS data shows linkage of hundreds of ASB loci to important yield and disease-related traits.

Conclusion: Our study provides a robust method for analyzing genome-wide variations of TF occupancy and identifies genetic and epigenetic variations of the brassinosteroid response transcription network in maize.