Genome-wide association study and pathway-level analysis of tocochromanol levels in maize grain

Alexander E. Lipka, Michael A. Gore, Maria Magallanes-Lundback, Alex Mesberg, Haining Lin, Tyler Tiede, harles Chen, C. Robin Buell, Edward S. Buckler, Torbert Rocheford, Dean DellaPenna

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126 Scopus citations


Tocopherols and tocotrienols, collectively known as tocochromanols, are the major lipid-soluble antioxidants in maize (Zea mays L.) grain. Given that individual tocochromanols differ in their degree of vitamin E activity, variation for tocochromanol composition and content in grain from among diverse maize inbred lines has important nutritional and health implications for enhancing the vitamin E and antioxidant contents of maizederived foods through plant breeding. Toward this end, we conducted a genome-wide association study of six tocochromanol compounds and 14 of their sums, ratios, and proportions with a 281 maize inbred association panel that was genotyped for 591,822 SNP markers. In addition to providing further insight into the association between ZmVTE4 (γ-tocopherol methyltransferase) haplotypes and a-tocopherol content, we also detected a novel association between ZmVTE1 (tocopherol cyclase) and tocotrienol composition. In a pathway-level analysis, we assessed the genetic contribution of 60 a priori candidate genes encoding the core tocochromanol pathway (VTE genes) and reactions for pathways supplying the isoprenoid tail and aromatic head group of tocochromanols. This analysis identified two additional genes, ZmHGGT1 (homogentisate geranylgeranyltransferase) and one prephenate dehydratase parolog (of four in the genome) that also modestly contribute to tocotrienol variation in the panel. Collectively, our results provide the most favorable ZmVTE4 haplotype and suggest three new gene targets for increasing vitamin E and antioxidant levels through marker-assisted selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1287-1299
Number of pages13
JournalG3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Biofortification
  • Candidate gene
  • GWAS
  • Vitamin E


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