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Genotype-by-Environment Interactions Affecting Heterosis in Maize

By Zhi Li, Lisa Coffey, Jacob Garfin, Nathan D Miller, Michael R. White, Edgar P. Spalding, Natalia de Leon, Shawn M. Kaeppler, Patrick S Schnable, Nathan Springer, Candice Hirsch

Posted 26 Apr 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/131342 (published DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0191321)

The environment can influence heterosis, the phenomena in which the offspring of two inbred parents exhibits phenotypic performance beyond the inbred parents for specific traits. In this study we measured 25 traits in a set of 47 maize hybrids and their inbred parents grown in 16 different environments, and each had varying levels of average productivity. By quantifying 25 vegetative and reproductive traits across the life cycle we were able to analyze interactions between the environment and multiple distinct instances of heterosis. The magnitude and rank among hybrids of better-parent heterosis (BPH) varied for the different traits and environments. Across the traits, a higher within plot variance was observed for inbred lines compared to hybrids. However, for most traits, variance across environments was not significantly different for inbred lines compared to hybrids. Further, for many traits the correlations of BPH to hybrid performance and BPH to better parent performance were of comparable magnitude. These results indicate that inbreds and hybrids are showing similar trends in environmental response and are both contribute to genotype-by-environment interactions for heterosis. This study highlights that degree of heterosis is not an inherent trait of a specific hybrid, but varies depending on the trait measured and the environment where that trait is measured. Studies that attempt to correlate molecular processes with heterosis are hindered by the fact that heterosis is not a consistent attribute of a specific hybrid.

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