Identification of quantitative trait loci for kernel-related traits and the heterosis for these traits in maize (Zea mays L.)

  • Yinghong Liu
  • Qiang Yi
  • Xianbin Hou
  • Yufeng Hu
  • Yangping Li
  • Guowu Yu
  • Hanmei Liu
  • Junjie Zhang
  • Yubi HuangEmail author
Original Article


Heterosis has been extensively applied for many traits during maize breeding, but there has been relatively little attention paid to the heterosis for kernel size. In this study, we evaluated a population of 301 recombinant inbred lines derived from a cross between 08-641 and YE478, as well as 298 hybrids from an immortalized F2 (IF2) population to detect quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for six kernel-related traits and the mid-parent heterosis (MPH) for these traits. A total of 100 QTLs, six pairs of loci with epistatic interactions, and five significant QTL × environment interactions were identified in both mapping populations. Seven QTLs accounted for over 10% of the phenotypic variation. Only four QTLs affected both the trait means and the MPH, suggesting the genetic mechanisms for kernel-related traits and the heterosis for kernel size are not completely independent. Moreover, more than half of the QTLs for each trait in the IF2 population exhibited dominance, implying that dominance is more important than other genetic effects for the heterosis for kernel-related traits. Additionally, 20 QTL clusters comprising 46 QTLs were detected across ten chromosomes. Specific chromosomal regions (bins 2.03, 6.04–6.05, and 9.01–9.02) exhibited pleiotropy and congruency across diverse heterotic patterns in previous studies. These results may provide additional insights into the genetic basis for the MPH for kernel-related traits.


Heterosis Kernel-related traits Immortalized F2 (IF2RIL QTL Dominance 



We thank all students for participating in the fieldwork. We thank Liwen Bianji, Edanz Editing China ( for editing the English text of a draft of this manuscript.


This study was funded by the Applied Basic Research Programs of Science and Technology Department of Sichuan Province (2016JY0065).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants and/or animals

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

438_2019_1608_MOESM1_ESM.docx (108 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 82 kb)


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Maize Research InstituteSichuan Agricultural UniversityChengduChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Crop Gene Exploration and Utilization in Southwest China and College of AgronomySichuan Agricultural UniversityChengduChina
  3. 3.College of Agriculture and Food EngineeringBaise UniversityBaiseChina
  4. 4.College of Life ScienceSichuan Agricultural UniversityYa’anChina

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