Individual genetic factors which underlie variation in quantitative traits of maize were investigated in each of two F2 populations by examining the mean trait expressions of genotypic classes at each of 17–20 segregating marker loci. It was demonstrated that the trait expression of marker locus classes could be interpreted in terms of genetic behavior at linked quantitative trait loci (QTLs). For each of 82 traits evaluated, QTLs were detected and located to genomic sites. The numbers of detected factors varied according to trait, with the average trait significantly influenced by almost two-thirds of the marked genomic sites. Most of the detected associations between marker loci and quantitative traits were highly significant, and could have been detected with fewer than the 1800–1900 plants evaluated in each population. The cumulative, simple effects of marker-linked regions of the genome explained between 8 and 40% of the phenotypic variation for a subset of 25 traits evaluated. Single marker loci accounted for between 0.3% and 16% of the phenotypic variation of traits. Individual plant heterozygosity, as measured by marker loci, was significantly associated with variation in many traits. The apparent types of gene action at the QTLs varied both among traits and between loci for given traits, although overdominance appeared frequently, especially for yield-related traits. The prevalence of apparent overdominance may reflect the effects of multiple QTLs within individual marker-linked regions, a situation which would tend to result in overestimation of dominance. Digenic epistasis did not appear to be important in determining the expression of the quantitative traits evaluated. Examination of the effects of marked regions on the expression of pairs of traits suggests that genomic regions vary in the direction and magnitudes of their effects on trait correlations, perhaps providing a means of selecting to dissociate some correlated traits. Marker-facilitated investigations appear to provide a powerful means of examining aspects of the genetic control of quantitative traits. Modifications of the methods employed herein will allow examination of the stability of individual gene effects in varying genetic backgrounds and environments.
- Received August 9, 1986.
- Accepted January 26, 1987.