Qiannan Ye, Lu Zhang, Qing Li, Yaliang Ji, Yanli Zhou, Zhenzhen Wu, Yanting Hu, Yongpeng Ma, Jihua Wang, Chengjun Zhang

Genome and GWAS analysis identified genes significantly related to phenotypic state of rhododendron bark

  • Horticulture
  • Plant Science
  • Genetics
  • Biochemistry
  • Biotechnology

Abstract As an important horticultural plant, Rhododendron is often used in urban greening and landscape design. However, factors such as the high rate of genetic recombination, frequent outcrossing in the wild, weak linkage disequilibrium, and the susceptibility of gene expression to environmental factors limit further exploration of functional genes related to important horticultural traits, and making the breeding of new varieties require longer time. Therefore, we choose bark as the target trait which is not easily affected by environmental factors, but also has ornamental properties. Genome-wide association study (GWAS) of Rhododendron delavayi (30 samples), Rhododendron irroratum (30 samples) and their F1 generation Rhododendron agastum (200 samples) was conducted on the roughness of bark phenotypes. Finally, we obtained 2416.31 Gbp of clean data and identified 5,328,800 high-quality SNPs. According to the P-value and the degree of linkage disequilibrium of SNPs, we further identified 4 genes out of 11 candidate genes that affect bark roughness. The results of gene differential expression analysis further indicated that the expression levels of Rhdel02G0243600 and Rhdel08G0220700 in different bark phenotypes were significantly different. Our study identified functional genes that influence important horticultural traits of Rhododendron, and illustrated the powerful utility and great potential of GWAS in understanding and exploiting wild germplasm genetic resources of Rhododendron.

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