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Genetic diversity and its relationship to hybrid performance in maize as revealed by RFLP and AFLP markers


 The challenge to maize breeders is to identify inbred lines that produce highly heterotic hybrids. In the present study we surveyed genetic divergence among 13 inbred lines of maize using DNA markers and assessed the relationship between genetic distance and hybrid performance in a diallel set of crosses between them. The parental lines were assayed for DNA polymorphism using 135 restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs) and 209 amplified-fragment polymorphisms (AFLPs). Considerable variation among inbreds was detected with RFLP and AFLP markers. Moreover AFLPs detect polymorphisms more efficiently in comparison to RFLPs, due to the larger number of loci assayed in a single PCR reaction. Genetic distances (GDs), calculated from RFLP and AFLP data, were greater among lines belonging to different heterotic groups compared to those calculated from lines of the same heterotic group. Cluster analysis based on GDs revealed associations among lines which agree with expectations based on pedigree information. The GD values of the 78 F1 crosses were partioned into general (GGD) and specific (SGD) components. Correlations of GD with F1 performance for grain yield were positive but too small to be of predictive value. The correlations of SGDs, particularly those based on AFLP data, with specific combining-ability effects for yield may have a practical utility in predicting hybrid performance.

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Received: 15 August 1997 / Accepted: 19 September 1997

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Ajmone Marsan, P., Castiglioni, P., Fusari, F. et al. Genetic diversity and its relationship to hybrid performance in maize as revealed by RFLP and AFLP markers. Theor Appl Genet 96, 219–227 (1998).

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  • Key words DNA polymorphisms
  • Genetic distances
  • Molecular markers
  • Yield prediction
  • Zea mays