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A genome-wide association and meta-analysis reveal regions associated with seed size in cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp].

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Key message

This paper combined GWAS, meta-analysis and sequence homology comparison with common bean to identify regions associated with seed size variation in domesticated cowpea. Seed size is an important trait for yield and commercial value in dry-grain cowpea. Seed size varies widely among different cowpea accessions, and the genetic basis of such variation is not yet well understood. To better decipher the genetic basis of seed size, a genome-wide association study (GWAS) and meta-analysis were conducted on a panel of 368 cowpea diverse accessions from 51 countries. Four traits, including seed weight, length, width and density were evaluated across three locations. Using 51,128 single nucleotide polymorphisms covering the cowpea genome, 17 loci were identified for these traits. One locus was common to weight, width and length, suggesting pleiotropy. By integrating synteny-based analysis with common bean, six candidate genes (Vigun05g036000, Vigun05g039600, Vigun05g204200, Vigun08g217000, Vigun11g187000, and Vigun11g191300) which are implicated in multiple functional categories related to seed size such as endosperm development, embryo development, and cell elongation were identified. These results suggest that a combination of GWAS meta-analysis with synteny comparison in a related plant is an efficient approach to identify candidate gene (s) for complex traits in cowpea. The identified loci and candidate genes provide useful information for improving cowpea varieties and for molecular investigation of seed size.

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