Genetic analysis of pericarp pigmentation variation in Corn Belt dent maize

Dylan L. Schoemaker, Yinjie Qiu, Natalia de Leon, Candice N. Hirsch, Shawn M. Kaeppler

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The US standard for maize commercially grown for grain specifies that yellow corn can contain at maximum 5% corn of other colors. Inbred parents of commercial hybrids typically have clear pericarp, but transgressive segregants in breeding populations can display variation in pericarp pigmentation. We identified 10 doubled haploid biparental populations segregating for pigmented pericarp and evaluated qualitative genetic models using chi-square tests of observed and expected frequencies. Pigmentation ranged from light to dark brown color, and pigmentation intensity was quantitatively measured across 1,327 inbred lines using hue calculated from RGB pixel values. Genetic mapping was used to identify loci associated with pigmentation intensity. For 9 populations, pigmentation inheritance best fit a hypothesis of a 2- or 3-gene epistatic model. Significant differences in pigment intensity were observed across populations. W606S-derived inbred lines with the darkest pericarp often had clear glumes, suggesting the presence of a novel P1-rw allele, a hypothesis supported by a significant quantitative trait locus peak at P1. A separate quantitative trait locus region on chromosome 2 between 221.64 and 226.66 Mbp was identified in LH82-derived populations, and the peak near p1 was absent. A genome-wide association study using 416 inbred lines from the Wisconsin Diversity panel with full genome resequencing revealed 4 significant associations including the region near P1. This study supports that pericarp pigmentation among dent maize inbreds can arise by transgressive segregation when pigmentation in the parental generation is absent and is partially explained by functional allelic variation at the P1 locus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjkad256
JournalG3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024

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© The Author(s) 2023.


  • Plant Genetics and Genomics
  • expired plant variety protection
  • genome-wide association study
  • hue
  • maize
  • pericarp
  • pigmentation
  • quantitative trait locus mapping

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