Parental Expression Variation of Small RNAs Is Negatively Correlated with Grain Yield Heterosis in a Maize Breeding Population

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Authors Felix Seifert, Alexander Thiemann, Robert Grant-Downton, Susanne Edelmann, Dominika Rybka, Tobias A. Schrag, Matthias Frisch, Hugh G. Dickinson, Albrecht E. Melchinger, Stefan Scholten
Journal/Conference Name Frontiers in Plant Science
Paper Category
Paper Abstract Heterosis refers to a quantitative phenomenon in which F1 hybrid trait values exceed the mean of the parental values in a positive direction. Generally, it is dependent on a high degree of heterozygosity, which is maintained in hybrid breeding by developing parental lines in separate, genetically distinct heterotic groups. The mobility of small RNAs (sRNAs) that mediate epigenetic regulation of gene expression renders them promising candidates for modulating the action of combined diverse genomes in trans–and evidence already indicates their contribution to transgressive phenotypes. By sequencing small RNA libraries of a panel of 21 maize parental inbred lines we found a low overlap of 35% between the sRNA populations from both distinct heterotic groups. Surprisingly, in contrast to genetic or gene expression variation, parental sRNA expression variation is negatively correlated with grain yield (GY) heterosis. Among 0.595 million expressed sRNAs, we identified 9,767, predominantly 22- and 24-nt long sRNAs, which showed an association of their differential expression between parental lines and GY heterosis of the respective hybrids. Of these sRNAs, 3,485 or 6,282 showed an association with high or low GY heterosis, respectively, thus the low heterosis associated group prevailing at 64%. The heterosis associated sRNAs map more frequently to genes that show differential expression between parental lines than reference sets. Together these findings suggest that trans-chromosomal actions of sRNAs in hybrids might add up to a negative contribution in heterosis formation, mediated by unfavorable gene expression regulation. We further revealed an exclusive accumulation of 22-nt sRNAs that are associated with low GY heterosis in pericentromeric genomic regions. That recombinational suppression led to this enrichment is indicated by its close correlation with low recombination rates. The existence of this enrichment, which we hypothesize resulted from the separated breeding of inbred lines within heterotic groups, may have implications for hybrid breeding strategies addressing the recombinational constraints characteristic of complex crop genomes.
Date of publication 2019
Code Programming Language Java
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