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Genome-wide association study for salinity tolerance at the flowering stage in a panel of rice accessions from Thailand.



Salt stress, a major plant environmental stress, is a critical constraint for rice productivity. Dissecting the genetic loci controlling salt tolerance in rice for improving productivity, especially at the flowering stage, remains challenging. Here, we conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of salt tolerance based on exome sequencing of the Thai rice accessions.


Photosynthetic parameters and cell membrane stability under salt stress at the flowering stage; and yield-related traits of 104 Thai rice (Oryza sativa L.) accessions belonging to the indica subspecies were evaluated. The rice accessions were subjected to exome sequencing, resulting in 112,565 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) called with a minor allele frequency of at least 5%. LD decay analysis of the panel indicates that the average LD for SNPs at 20 kb distance from each other was 0.34 (r2), which decayed to its half value (~ 0.17) at around 80 kb. By GWAS performed using mixed linear model, two hundred loci containing 448 SNPs on exons were identified based on the salt susceptibility index of the net photosynthetic rate at day 6 after salt stress; and the number of panicles, filled grains and unfilled grains per plant. One hundred and forty six genes, which accounted for 73% of the identified loci, co-localized with the previously reported salt quantitative trait loci (QTLs). The top four regions that contained a high number of significant SNPs were found on chromosome 8, 12, 1 and 2. While many are novel, their annotation is consistent with potential involvement in plant salt tolerance and in related agronomic traits. These significant SNPs greatly help narrow down the region within these QTLs where the likely underlying candidate genes can be identified.


Insight into the contribution of potential genes controlling salt tolerance from this GWAS provides further understanding of salt tolerance mechanisms of rice at the flowering stage, which can help improve yield productivity under salinity via gene cloning and genomic selection.

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