Theoretical and Applied Genetics

, Volume 132, Issue 12, pp 3309–3320 | Cite as

Genetic architecture of phenotypic means and plasticities of kernel size and weight in maize

  • Chunhui Li
  • Xun Wu
  • Yongxiang Li
  • Yunsu Shi
  • Yanchun Song
  • Dengfeng Zhang
  • Yu LiEmail author
  • Tianyu WangEmail author
Original Article


Key message

Genetic relationships between the phenotypic means and plasticities of kernel size and weight revealed the common genetic control of these traits in maize.


Kernel size and weight are crucial components of grain yield in maize, and phenotypic plasticity in these traits facilitates adaptations to changing environments. Elucidating the genetic architecture of the mean phenotypic values and plasticities of kernel size and weight may be essential for breeding climate-robust maize varieties. Here, a maize nested association mapping (CN-NAM) population and association panel were grown in different environments. A joint linkage analysis and genome-wide association mapping were performed for five kernel size and weight phenotypic traits and two phenotypic plasticity measures. The mean phenotypes and plasticities were significantly correlated. The overall results of quantitative trait locus (QTL) and candidate gene analyses indicated moderate and high levels of common genetic control for the two traits. Furthermore, the mean phenotypes or plasticities of the hundred-kernel weight and volume were commonly regulated to a high degree. One pleiotropic locus on chromosome 10 simultaneously controlled the mean phenotypic values and plasticities of kernel size and weight. Therefore, the plasticity of kernel size and weight might be indirectly selected during maize breeding; however, selecting for high or low plasticity in combination with high or low mean phenotypic values of kernel size and weight traits may be difficult.



We thank Aaron Kusmec of Iowa State University for providing the method for calculating plasticity values.

Author contribution statement

CHL analyzed the data and drafted the manuscript. YXL and XW participated in the data collection. YSS, YCS and DFZ provided phenotypic information. YL and TYW conceived the study, managed the project design and coordination, collected data, and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This work was supported by the MOST and MOA programs of China (2016YFD0100103), National Natural Science Foundation (31701433, 91335206), and the CARS-02 and CAAS Innovation Program.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Crop SciencesChinese Academy of Agricultural SciencesBeijingChina

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