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Natural variation at qHd1 affects heading date acceleration at high temperatures with pleiotropism for yield traits in rice
Junyu Chen, Hongwei Zhang, Huali Zhang, Jiezheng Ying, Liangyong Ma* and Jieyun Zhuang*
BMC Plant Biology  , 2018, 18:1-11.

Abstract

Background

Rice is highly sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Recently, the frequent occurrence of high temperature stress has heavily influenced rice production. Proper heading date in specific environmental conditions could ensure high grain yield. Rice heading greatly depends on the accurate measurement of environmental changes, particularly in day length and temperature. In contrary to the detailed understanding of the photoperiod pathway, little has been known about how temperature regulates the genetic control of rice heading.

Results

Near isogenic lines that were segregated for qHd1, were developed from a cross between indica rice varieties Zhenshan 97 (ZS97) and Milyang 46 (MY46). Using a five sowing-date experiment in the paddy field, we observed the involvement of qHd1 in temperature responses. With the gradual increase of temperature from Trial I to V, heading date of MY46 homozygotes continued to decrease for about 5 d per trial from 76 to 58 d, while that of ZS97 homozygotes was promoted at the same rate from Trial I to III and then stabilized at 69 d. This thermal response was confirmed in a temperature-gradient experiment conducted in the phytotron. It is also found that tolerance of the ZS97 allele to heading acceleration at high temperature was associated with higher grain weight that resulted in higher grain yield. Then, by qRT-PCR and RNA-seq, we found the pathway OsMADS51-Ehd1-RFT1/Hd3a underlying the qHd1-mediated floral response to temperature. By sequence comparison, OsMADS51 for qHd1 displayed a 9.5-kb insertion in the 1st intron of the ZS97 allele compared to the MY46 allele. Furthermore, this large insertion is commonly found in major early-season indica rice varieties, but not in the middle- and late-season ones, which corresponds to the requirement for high-temperature tolerance during the heading and grain-filling stages of early-season rice.

Conclusions

Beneficial alleles at qHd1 confer tolerance to high temperatures at the heading and grain-filling stages, playing a significant role in the eco-geographical adaptation of early-season indica rice during modern breeding. These results, together with the underlying OsMADS51-Ehd1-RFT1/Hd3a floral pathway, provide valuable information for better understanding the molecular mechanism of temperature responsive regulation of heading date and yield traits in rice.