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Dr. QIN Feng’s group found ZmVPP1 gene contributes to drought tolerance in maize seedlings
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 Maize is a major crop grown for food, feed and fuel, however its production is threatened by drought stress worldwide. Thus, there is tremendous interest in and demand for improving maize drought tolerance through biotechnology. Identification of the genetic components underlying drought tolerance in maize is of great importance.


Prof. QIN Feng and her team at the Institute of Botany, CAS, have performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of maize drought tolerance at the seedling stage that identified 83 genetic variations, which were resolved to 42 candidate genes. The peak GWAS signal showed that the natural variation in ZmVPP1, encoding a vacuolar-type H+-pyrophosphatase, contributes most significantly to the trait. Further analysis showed that a 366-bp insertion in the promoter (InDel-379), containing three MYB cis-elements, confers drought inducible expression of ZmVPP1 in drought-tolerant genotypes. Introgression the tolerant allele of ZmVPP1 into a drought-sensitive genetic background greatly improved plant drought tolerance. Transgenic maize with enhanced ZmVPP1 expression exhibits improved drought tolerance that is most likely due to enhanced photosynthetic efficiency and root development. Taken together, this information provides important genetic insights into the natural variation of maize drought tolerance. The identified loci and genes can serve as direct targets for both genetic engineering and selection for maize trait improvement.


This work is published in the latest issue of Nature Genetics on 15 August, 2016 (doi: 10.1038/ng.3636). The graduate students, WANG Xianglan and WANG Hongwei, in Professor QIN Feng’s lab are the co-first authors of this paper. Prof. YANG Xiaohong from National Maize Improvement Center of China in China Agricultural University is the co-corresponding author. This research was supported by grants from the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.



Legend: The ZmVPP1 tolerant allele improves drought tolerance in maize seedlings.

a. Morphological phenotype of near isogenic lines (NILs) carrying different allele of ZmVPP1CIMBL70/91 and ZmVPP1Shen5003, b. Comparison of drought tolerance of the NILs, c. The molecular marker (InDel-379) selection of the segregating NILs carrying different alleles of ZmVPP1, d. Statistical data for the survival rate of the NILs, e. Relative expression level of ZmVPP1 in the parental maize inbred lines, f,g. Relative expression levels of ZmVPP1 in NIL-ZmVPP1Shen5003 and NIL-ZmVPP1CIMBL70 (f) and in NIL-ZmVPP1CIMBL91 (g)




QIN Feng

Key Laboratory of Plant Molecular Physiology

Institute of Botany,

Chinese Academy of Sciences,

20 Nanxincun, Xiangshan, Beijing 100093, China

E-mail: qinfeng@ibcas.ac.cn

Institute of Botany, CAS    Add: No.20 Nanxincun, Xiangshan, Beijing 100093, China
京ICP备16067583号-24 Tel: +86 10 6283 6215    Fax: +86 10 6259 0833    E-mail: Int_Office@ibcas.ac.cn