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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Raleigh, North Carolina » Plant Science Research » Research » Research Project #434239

Research Project: Genetics of Disease Resistance and Food Quality Traits in Corn

Location: Plant Science Research

Project Number: 6070-21220-016-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Feb 20, 2018
End Date: Feb 19, 2023

Objective 1. Identify genes and mechanisms underlying defense response and quantitative disease resistance to foliar fungal pathogens and ear stalk rots in maize. Sub-objective 1.A. Validate and fine-map QTL alleles underlying multiple disease resistance in maize. Sub-objective 1.B. Test the effects of candidate SLB resistance genes using transgenic and mutant analysis. Sub-objective 1.C. Assess the resistance of diverse lines to Anthracnose stalk rot. Sub-objective 1.D. Validate the roles of genes associated with variation in the maize hypersensitive response (HR). Sub-objective 1.E. Validate the effects of candidate QTL identified in genome-wide association studies of Fusarium ear rot. Objective 2. Test new methods of genomics-assisted breeding for quantitative disease resistance in maize to improve productivity and food safety. Conduct genomic selection for resistance to Fusarium ear rot. Objective 3. Evaluate diverse maize germplasm for potential in specialty food products by conducting agronomic and disease evaluations. Sub-objective 3.A. Evaluate open-pollinated varieties for food quality and agronomic production characteristics. Sub-objective 3.B. Develop populations with lower grain protein content for use in metabolic disorder diets.

We selected 37 near-isogenic lines carrying the 30 most effective multiple disease resistance genes based on previous evaluations. We will produce F2:3 mapping populations of about 100 lines each and rate their disease reactions in replicated field trials. SNP markers will be used to test the effect of each QTL in mostly homogeneous genetic backgrounds. We previously identified 16 candidate genes for southern leaf blight resistance based on detailed genome-wide association analysis. To functionally characterize these genes, we will first identify and assess lines in which a Mu transposon has inserted into the candidate gene. Also, we will over-express or silence the gene of interest using transgenesis and evaluate the resulting disease phenotypes. We also identified 6 candidate genes associated with modulation of the maize hypersensitive response. We will test if these candidate genes can suppress hypersensitive response using transient expression assays in Nicotiana benthamiana, test if their proteins interact physically with the hypersensitive response trigger protein Rp1-D21 using co-immunoprecipitation assays, and also attempt to identify UnifomMu insertional mutants in these candidate genes and determine whether mutation of these genes affects the hypersensitive response. We will assess resistance to Anthracnose stalk rot in 30 diverse maize inbred lines grown in replicated field trials under artificial inoculation. We will test the effects of candidate QTL identified in previous genome-wide association studies of Fusarium ear rot in three new biparental cross families. The new lines will be genotyped at SNP markers previously associations with ear rot resistance and grown in replicated field trials under artificial inoculation with Fusarium. Statistical tests of association between SNP genotypes and ear rot resistance in these new populations will be used to independently evaluate their effects. We will test the effectiveness of genomic selection in a genetically broad-based population. S1 lines from this population were densely genotyped and evaluated across multiple environments to create a training model for genomic selection. Four cycles of genomic recurrent selection will be conducted among individual plants in this population. One cycle of phenotypic selection among replicated S1 lines will be conducted in parallel in the same time frame. Lines resulting from both procedures will be tested in common field trials to compare the effectiveness of genomic and phenotypic selection in this population. Field evaluations and traditional breeding approaches will be applied to corn populations derived from heirloom populations to find the best sources of agronomic and food quality performance and to initiate within-population selection for improvements in these traits. Traditional breeding methods will also be implemented in crosses between corn lines with lower protein content to attempt to obtain varieties with lower protein content to serve as alternative foods for patients with metabolic disorders.