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A novel maize dwarf mutant generated by Ty1-copia LTR-retrotransposon insertion in Brachytic2 after spaceflight


Key message

Retrotransposon insertion in Brachytic2 generated a new incomplete recessive dwarf allele after spaceflight can moderately reduce plant height in heterozygous and potentially improve maize yield.


Plant height and ear height are two important agronomic traits in maize breeding. In this study, two dwarf mutants short internode length1 (sil1) and short internode length2 (sil2) were obtained from two of 398 spaceflighted seeds of inbred line 18-599. The decrease in longitudinal cell number and cell length led to the shortened internodes of sil1 and sil2. A Ty1-copia LTR-retrotransposon, termed ZmRE-1, inserted in the fifth exon of Brachytic2 (Br2) was identified in sil1 and sil2 at exactly the same site, which indicated the transposition of ZmRE-1 probably correlated with the spaceflight. This new dwarf mutant allele was named as br2-sil in this study. The insertion of ZmRE-1 not only led to the loss of normal transcript of Br2 allele, but also reduced the transcript expression of br2-sil allele. Chop-qPCR displayed that the promoter region DNA methylation level of br2-sil allele in sil1 was higher than that of Br2 allele in WT-sil1. We speculated that the increased methylation level might downregulate the br2-sil expression. There was no difference in the seed-setting rate between sil1 and WT-sil1. Meanwhile, br2-sil could reduce plant and ear height effectively in Br2/br2-sil genotype without negative effects on grain yield. Therefore, the application of br2-sil in breeding has the potential to improve the grain yield per unit area through increasing the planting density.

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This research was supported by The National Key Research and Development Program of China (No. 2016YFD0102104) and Platform for Mutation Breeding by Radiation in Sichuan (No. 2016NZ0106).

Author information

CL and MC conceived and designed research. CL, JT, ZH and JW conducted experiments. CL and TY analyzed data. CL, HY and MC wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

Correspondence to Moju Cao.

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Li, C., Tang, J., Hu, Z. et al. A novel maize dwarf mutant generated by Ty1-copia LTR-retrotransposon insertion in Brachytic2 after spaceflight. Plant Cell Rep 39, 393–408 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00299-019-02498-8

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  • Spaceflight
  • Dwarf mutant
  • Brachytic2
  • Ty1-copia LTR-retrotransposon
  • Maize