Breeding Maize for Drought Tolerance: Diversity Characterization and Linkage Disequilibrium of Maize Paralogs ZmLOX4 and ZmLOX5
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Maize production is limited agronomically by the availability of water and nutrients during the growing season. Of these two limiting factors, water availability is predicted to increase in importance as climate change and the growing urban landscape continue to stress limited supplies of freshwater. Historically, efforts to breed maize for water-limited environments have been extensive; especially in the areas of root architecture and flowering physiology. As progress has been made and new traits have been discovered and selected for, the different responses to drought stress at specific developmental stages of the maize plant have been selected as a whole when drought tolerance is evaluated. Herein we attempt to define the characteristics of the maize drought response during different developmental stages of the maize plant that can be altered through plant breeding. Towards breeding for drought tolerance, 400 inbred lines from a diversity panel were amplified and sequenced at the ZmLOX4 and ZmLOX5 loci in an effort to characterize their linkage disequilibrium and genetic diversity. Understanding these characteristics is essential for an association mapping study that accompanies this project, searching for novel and natural allelic diversity to improve drought tolerance and aflatoxin resistance in maize. This study is among the first to investigate genetic diversity at important gene paralogs ZmLOX4 and ZmLOX5 believed to be highly conserved among all Eukaryotes. We show very little genetic diversity and very low linkage disequilibrium in these genes, but also identified one natural variant line with knocked out ZmLOX5, a variant line missing ZmLOX5, and five line variants with a duplication of ZmLOX5. Tajima's D test suggests that both ZmLOX4 and ZmLOX5 have both been under neutral selection. Further investigation of haplotype data revealed that ZmLOX12, a member of the ZmLOX family, showed strong LD that extends much further than expected in maize. Linkage disequilibrium patterns at these loci of interest are crucial to quantify for future candidate gene association mapping studies. Knockout and copy number variants of ZmLOX5, while not a surprising find, are under further investigation for crop improvement.
De La Fuente, Gerald (2012). Breeding Maize for Drought Tolerance: Diversity Characterization and Linkage Disequilibrium of Maize Paralogs ZmLOX4 and ZmLOX5. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from