Dissecting tocopherols content in maize (Zea mays L.), using two segregating populations and high-density single nucleotide polymorphism markers

Xu Shutu, Zhang Dalong, Cai Ye, Zhou Yi, Trushar Shah, Farhan Ali, Li Qing, Li Zhigang, Wang Weidong, Li Jiansheng, Yang Xiaohong, Yan Jianbing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Background: Tocopherols, which are vitamin E compounds, play an important role in maintaining human health. Compared with other staple foods, maize grains contain high level of tocopherols.Results: Two F2 populations (K22/CI7 and K22/Dan340, referred to as POP-1 and POP-2, respectively), which share a common parent (K22), were developed and genotyped using a GoldenGate assay containing 1,536 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers. An integrated genetic linkage map was constructed using 619 SNP markers, spanning a total of 1649.03 cM of the maize genome with an average interval of 2.67 cM. Seventeen quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for all the traits were detected in the first map and 13 in the second. In these two maps, QTLs for different traits were localized to the same genomic regions and some were co-located with candidate genes in the tocopherol biosynthesis pathway. Single QTL was responsible for 3.03% to 52.75% of the phenotypic variation and the QTLs in sum explained23.4% to 66.52% of the total phenotypic variation. A major QTL (qc5-1/qd5-1) affecting α-tocopherol (αT) was identified on chromosome 5 between the PZA03161.1 and PZA02068.1 in the POP-2. The QTL region was narrowed down from 18.7 Mb to 5.4 Mb by estimating the recombination using high-density markers of the QTL region. This allowed the identification of the candidate gene VTE4 which encodes γ-tocopherol methyltransferase, an enzyme that transforms γ-tocopherol (γT)to αT.Conclusions: These results demonstrate that a few QTLs with major effects and several QTLs with medium to minor effects might contribute to the natural variation of tocopherols in maize grain. The high-density markers will help to fine map and identify the QTLs with major effects even in the preliminary segregating populations. Furthermore, this study provides a simple guide line for the breeders to improve traits that minimize the risk of malnutrition, especially in developing countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number201
JournalBMC plant biology
StatePublished - Nov 2 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Abhishek Rathore for help with the construction of the linkage maps. We would also like to thank Santosh Deshpande and Weiwei Wen for their valuable comments in improving this manuscript. This research was supported by the National Hi-Tech Research and Development Program of China (2012AA10A307) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31222041).


  • Maize
  • QTL mapping
  • Tocopherols


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