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Association and linkage mapping to unravel genetic architecture of phenological traits and lateral bearing in Persian walnut (Juglans regia L.).

  • Author(s): Bernard, Anthony;
  • Marrano, Annarita;
  • Donkpegan, Armel;
  • Brown, Patrick J;
  • Leslie, Charles A;
  • Neale, David B;
  • Lheureux, Fabrice;
  • Dirlewanger, Elisabeth
  • et al.

BACKGROUND:Unravelling the genetic architecture of agronomic traits in walnut such as budbreak date and bearing habit, is crucial for climate change adaptation and yield improvement. A Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS) using multi-locus models was conducted in a panel of 170 walnut accessions genotyped using the Axiom™ J. regia 700 K SNP array, with phenological data from 2018, 2019 and legacy data. These accessions come from the INRAE walnut germplasm collection which is the result of important prospecting work performed in many countries around the world. In parallel, an F1 progeny of 78 individuals segregating for phenology-related traits, was genotyped with the same array and phenotyped for the same traits, to construct linkage maps and perform Quantitative Trait Loci (QTLs) detection. RESULTS:Using GWAS, we found strong associations of SNPs located at the beginning of chromosome 1 with both budbreak and female flowering dates. These findings were supported by QTLs detected in the same genomic region. Highly significant associated SNPs were also detected using GWAS for heterodichogamy and lateral bearing habit, both on chromosome 11. We developed a Kompetitive Allele Specific PCR (KASP) marker for budbreak date in walnut, and validated it using plant material from the Walnut Improvement Program of the University of California, Davis, demonstrating its effectiveness for marker-assisted selection in Persian walnut. We found several candidate genes involved in flowering events in walnut, including a gene related to heterodichogamy encoding a sugar catabolism enzyme and a cell division related gene linked to female flowering date. CONCLUSIONS:This study enhances knowledge of the genetic architecture of important agronomic traits related to male and female flowering processes and lateral bearing in walnut. The new marker available for budbreak date, one of the most important traits for good fruiting, will facilitate the selection and development of new walnut cultivars suitable for specific climates.

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