, Volume 192, Issue 2, pp 289–303 | Cite as

Retrotransposon-related genetic distance and hybrid performance in sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.)

  • M. Buti
  • T. Giordani
  • M. Vukich
  • C. Pugliesi
  • L. Natali
  • A. Cavallini


Heterosis is a main force leading the development of the hybrid seed industry in sunflower. The purpose of this study is to evaluate if heterosis effects for morphological traits among sunflower hybrids can be related to differences in the repetitive component of the genome of parental lines. The assumption is that, at least for certain traits, heterosis results from mutations in the cis-regulatory elements of genes, largely related to retrotransposon insertions and/or removals. Our experimental approach consists of a correlation study between hybrid performance and retrotransposon-related genetic distances between inbreds. Six sunflower inbred lines of different origin were crossed in a half diallel fashion; comparing parental lines and hybrids, mid parent heterosis of F1 hybrids was evaluated for six traits. We estimated the parental genetic distances between the six inbreds on data gathered by the inter-retrotransposon-amplified-polymorphism (IRAP) protocol. Different retrotransposons previously isolated in sunflower were targeted by 11 primer pairs designed on conserved LTR domains. As a control, genetic distances were also calculated using 86 genic SNPs. We analysed the correlation between the mid-parent heterosis for each of the six traits analysed and the genetic distance (calculated on data obtained by SNP or IRAP analyses) between the parental lines. Differences between parents showed to be largely related to variations in the retrotransposon component of the genome. Retrotransposon-related genetic distance between parents resulted to be larger than that related to genic SNPs, and significantly correlated to seed yield and, at a lesser extent, to plant height and stem diameter in hybrids. The hypothesis that variations in the repetitive component of the genome, especially LTR-retrotransposons, affect the displaying of heterosis is discussed.


Genetic distance Heterosis Molecular markers Retrotransposons Sunflower 



Thanks are due to Dr. Elisabetta Frascaroli (University of Bologna) for her useful suggestions during the investigation and to Dr. Andrea Cini (Kayser Italia) for revising the manuscript. This work was supported by PRIN-MIUR, Projects “Variabilità di sequenza ed eterosi in piante coltivate” and “SUNREP: caratterizzazione molecolare della componente ripetitiva del genoma di girasole”.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 74 kb)
10681_2013_883_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (49 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 49 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Buti
    • 1
  • T. Giordani
    • 1
  • M. Vukich
    • 1
  • C. Pugliesi
    • 1
  • L. Natali
    • 1
  • A. Cavallini
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental SciencesUniversity of PisaPisaItaly

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