Genetic analysis of the Sorghum bicolor stay-green drought tolerance trait
Harris, Karen Ruth
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Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor [L.] Moench) is the fifth most economically important cereal grown worldwide and is a source of food, feed, fiber and fuel. Sorghum, a C4 grass and a close relative to sugarcane, is adapted to hot, dry adverse environments. Some genotypes of sorghum called stay-green have delayed leaf senescence during grain ripening under drought stress conditions which allows normal grain filling whereas most sorghum lines senesce early under post-anthesis drought. Eight sources of stay-green have been identified in the sorghum germplasm collection, most originating from Sudan and Ethiopia. The diversity of the eight sources of staygreen was analyzed using 55 simple sequence repeats (SSR) markers with genome coverage. This analysis showed that the sources of stay-green are quite diverse and can be divided into five groups based on race or working group. Three sources of stay-green have been used to identify 12 major quantitative trait loci (QTL) that modulate this trait. The origin of favorable alleles for stay-green was traced backward to ancestral lines and forward into breeding materials derived from stay-green germplasm. The analysis of the origin of favorable alleles for stay-green helped explain why subsets of stay-green QTL were identified in different studies and provided evidence that there may be more than one favorable allele in the sorghum germplasm for several of the stay-green QTL. Analysis of stay-green breeding lines from three public sorghum-breeding programs revealed that one of the main QTL identified in mapping studies was not being used in the breeding programs (0/13), most likely due to its association with an allele for lemon yellow seeds. In addition, a subset of the regions containing favorable alleles for staygreen from the genotype BTx642 were over represented in stay-green breeding lines. Nearly isogenic lines containing favorable alleles from BTx642 for Stg1, Stg2, Stg3, and Stg4 in a RTx7000 (senescent) background were characterized and each NIL was shown to exhibit a stay-green phenotype. Based in part on this information, fine-mapping of Stg1 was undertaken by crossing the Stg1 NIL to RTx7000. Overall, these results revealed the origin of favorable alleles for stay-green and the current utilization of alleles for stay-green in public breeding programs. In addition, this study identified additional stay-green sources that could be used for further QTL analysis and highlighted the genetic complexity of the stay-green trait.