Allohexaploid (2n = 6x = 42) intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium), abbreviated IWG, is an outcrossing perennial grass belonging to the tertiary gene pool of wheat. Perenniality would be valuable option for grain production, but attempts to introgress this complex trait from wheat-Thinopyrum hybrids have not been commercially successful. Efforts to breed IWG itself as a dual-purpose forage and grain crop have demonstrated useful progress and applications, but grain yields are significantly less than wheat. Therefore, genetic and physical maps have been developed to accelerate domestication of IWG. Herein, these maps were used to identify quantitative trait loci (QTLs) and candidate genes associated with IWG grain production traits in a family of 266 full-sib progenies derived from two heterozygous parents, M26 and M35. Transgressive segregation was observed for 17 traits related to seed size, shattering, threshing, inflorescence capacity, fertility, stem size, and flowering time. A total of 111 QTLs were detected in 36 different regions using 3826 genotype-by-sequence markers in 21 linkage groups. The most prominent QTL had a LOD score of 15 with synergistic effects of 29% and 22% over the family means for seed retention and percentage of naked seeds, respectively. Many QTLs aligned with one or more IWG gene models corresponding to 42 possible domestication orthogenes including the wheat Q and RHT genes. A cluster of seed-size and fertility QTLs showed possible alignment to a putative Z self-incompatibility gene, which could have detrimental grain-yield effects when genetic variability is low. These findings elucidate pathways and possible hurdles in the domestication of IWG.
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