Heterosis, the superior performance of hybrids as compared to their parental mean is an agronomically important phenomenon well-described morphologically. However, little is known about its molecular basis. We investigated four genetically unrelated maize (Zea mays L.) inbred lines and their F1 crosses both at the phenotype and transcriptome level, focusing on plant height (PHT) component traits. Substantial mid-parent heterosis (MPH) was found for all parent-hybrid triplets for PHT in the range of 37.9–56.4% in the field and 11.1–39.5% under controlled greenhouse conditions. Analyses of heterosis for number and length of internodes showed two to three times higher MPH in the field as compared to the greenhouse. All three traits exhibited high heritabilities, highest for PHT 95–98%. Two methods for gene expression quantification were applied. High-density cDNA uni-gene microarrays containing 11,827 ESTs were utilized for the selection of differentially expressed genes related to heterosis for PHT. For the four triplets with eight possible parent-hybrid comparisons we identified 434 consistently differentially expressed genes with a p ≤ 0.05. Microarray results were used to verify the dominance/overdominance hypothesis. In our study, more than 50% genes showed overdominance, 26% partial dominance, 12.6% complete dominance and 10.2% additive gene action. Moreover, more consistently differentially expressed genes were detected in related triplets, sharing one parent, than in unrelated triplets. Quantitative RT-PCR was applied in order to validate microarray results. The role of the differentially expressed genes in relation to heterosis for PHT is discussed.
Plant Molecular Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 28, 2006
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