Zhi, Hui (2010-12). Molecular Basis of Heterosis in Maize: Genetic Correlation and 3-Dimensional Network Between Gene Expression and Grain Yield Trait Heterosis. Master's Thesis. Thesis uri icon


  • Heterosis, or hybrid vigor, refers to the superiority of F?hybrid performance over the mean of its parents (mid-parent heterosis) theoretically, or the performance of better parents. It has been discovered in many species of plants and animals as well as in humans, and played an important role in enhanced agricultural production, especially in maize, rice and sorghum although the mechanism have not been elucidated. We studied the molecular basis of heterosis with a combined genomics and systems biology approach using model organism maize. We profiled the expression of 39 genes that were most differentially expressed (DG) between the mid-parents and their F1 hybrid (Mo17 x B73) in the 13V-satged, developed whole ear shoots of 13 inbred lines and their 22 F1 hybrids grown in the field trails and phenotyped their 13 traits significant for grain yield. The results showed that gene expression varies significantly among inbreds, among hybrids and in heterosis. The gene clustering heat map and gene action networks in inbreds and hybrids were constructed respectively based on their gene expression profile. According to these pattern analyses, we find dramatically difference between inbreds and their hybrids, although the differential expression varies across different hybrids. Our results also suggest that gene networks are altered from inbreds to hybrids, including their gene contents and wire structures. Last but not least, we have determined the genetic variation correlations between the gene expression and trait performance and constructed the gene networks for the development of 12 of the 13 traits that varied significantly among genotypes. This has led to identification of genes significantly contributing to the performances of the traits, with 1 - 16 genes per trait. These results have indicated that heterosis results not only from altered expression level of corresponding genes between inbreds and their hybrids, importantly, also from the altered gene action networks and expression patterns. These alternations could be derived from gene actions in a manner of additivity, dominance, over dominance, pseudo-overdominance, epistasis and/or their combinations. Therefore, our findings provide a better understanding of the underlying molecular basis of heterosis. The genes identified for the traits will provide tools for advanced studies of the trait heterosis and could be used as tools for their heterosis breeding in maize. The strategy developed in this study will provide an effective tool for studies of other complicated, quantitative traits in maize and other species.

publication date

  • December 2010