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A genetic locus and gene expression patterns associated with the priming effect on lettuce seed germination at elevated temperatures


Seeds of most cultivated varieties of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) fail to germinate at warm temperatures (i.e., above 25–30°C). Seed priming (controlled hydration followed by drying) alleviates this thermoinhibition by increasing the maximum germination temperature. We conducted a quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis of seed germination responses to priming using a recombinant inbred line (RIL) population derived from a cross between L. sativa cv. Salinas and L. serriola accession UC96US23. Priming significantly increased the maximum germination temperature of the RIL population, and a single major QTL was responsible for 47% of the phenotypic variation due to priming. This QTL collocated with Htg6.1, a major QTL from UC96US23 associated with high temperature germination capacity. Seeds of three near-isogenic lines (NILs) carrying an Htg6.1 introgression from UC96US23 in a Salinas genetic background exhibited synergistic increases in maximum germination temperature in response to priming. LsNCED4, a gene encoding a key enzyme (9-cis-epoxycarotinoid dioxygenase) in the abscisic acid biosynthetic pathway, maps precisely with Htg6.1. Expression of LsNCED4 after imbibition for 24 h at high temperature was greater in non-primed seeds of Salinas, of a second cultivar (Titan) and of NILs containing Htg6.1 compared to primed seeds of the same genotypes. In contrast, expression of genes encoding regulated enzymes in the gibberellin and ethylene biosynthetic pathways (LsGA3ox1 and LsACS1, respectively) was enhanced by priming and suppressed by imbibition at elevated temperatures. Developmental and temperature regulation of hormonal biosynthetic pathways is associated with seed priming effects on germination temperature sensitivity.

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