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Genetic variation in YIGE1 contributes to ear length and grain yield in maize
New Phytologist  (IF10.151),  Pub Date : 2021-11-27, DOI: 10.1111/nph.17882
Yun Luo, Mingliang Zhang, Yu Liu, Jie Liu, Wenqiang Li, Gengshen Chen, Yong Peng, Min Jin, Wenjie Wei, Liumei Jian, Jin Yan, Alisdair R. Fernie, Jianbing Yan

  • Ear length (EL), which is controlled by quantitative trait loci (QTLs), is an important component of grain yield and as such is a key target trait in maize breeding. However, very few EL QTLs have been cloned, and their molecular mechanisms are largely unknown.
  • Here, using a genome wide association study (GWAS), we identified a QTL, YIGE1, which encodes an unknown protein that regulates EL by affecting pistillate floret number. Overexpression of YIGE1 increased female inflorescence meristem (IM) size, increased EL and kernel number per row (KNPR), and thus enhanced grain yield. By contrast, CRISPR/Cas9 knockout and Mutator insertion mutant lines of YIGE1 displayed decreased IM size and EL.
  • A single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) located in the regulatory region of YIGE1 had a large effect on its promoter strength, which positively affected EL by increasing gene expression. Further analysis shows that YIGE1 may be involved in sugar and auxin signal pathways to regulate maize ear development, thus affecting IM activity and floret production in maize inflorescence morphogenesis.
  • These findings provide new insights into ear development and will ultimately facilitate maize molecular breeding.