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Nonadditive gene expression is correlated with nonadditive phenotypic expression in interspecific triploid hybrids of willow (Salix spp.)

By Craig H Carlson, Yongwook Choi, Agnes P Chan, Christopher D. Town, Lawrence B Smart

Posted 14 Oct 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.10.13.464325

Many studies have highlighted the complex and diverse basis for heterosis in inbred crops. Despite the lack of a consensus model, it is vital that we turn our attention to understanding heterosis in undomesticated, heterozygous, and polyploid species, such as willow (Salix spp.). Shrub willow is a dedicated energy crop bred to be fast-growing and high yielding on marginal land without competing with food crops. A trend in willow breeding is the consistent pattern of heterosis in triploids produced from crosses between diploid and tetraploid species. Here, we test whether differentially expressed genes are associated with heterosis in triploid families derived from diploid S. purpurea, diploid S. viminalis, and tetraploid S. miyabeana parents. Three biological replicates of shoot tips from all family progeny and parents were collected after 12 weeks in the greenhouse and RNA extracted for RNA-Seq analysis. This study provides evidence that nonadditive patterns of gene expression are correlated with nonadditive phenotypic expression in interspecific triploid hybrids of willow. Expression-level dominance was most correlated with heterosis for biomass yield traits and was highly enriched for processes involved in starch and sucrose metabolism. In addition, there was a global dosage effect of parent alleles in triploid hybrids, with expression proportional to copy number variation. Importantly, differentially expressed genes between family parents were most predictive of heterosis for both field and greenhouse collected traits. Altogether, these data will be used to progress models of heterosis to complement the growing genomic resources available for the improvement of heterozygous perennial bioenergy crops.

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