Mapping Agronomic and Quality Traits in Elite Durum Wheat Lines under Differing Water Regimes

Final grain production and quality in durum wheat are affected by biotic and abiotic stresses. The association mapping (AM) approach is useful for dissecting the genetic control of quantitative traits, with the aim of increasing final wheat production under stress conditions. In this study, we used AM analyses to detect quantitative trait loci (QTL) underlying agronomic and quality traits in a collection of 294 elite durum wheat lines from CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center), grown under different water regimes over four growing seasons. Thirty-seven significant marker-trait associations (MTAs) were detected for sedimentation volume (SV) and thousand kernel weight (TKW), located on chromosomes 1B and 2A, respectively. The QTL loci found were then confirmed with several AM analyses, which revealed 12 sedimentation index (SDS) MTAs and two additional loci for SV (4A) and yellow rust (1B). A candidate gene analysis of the identified genomic regions detected a cluster of 25 genes encoding blue copper proteins in chromosome 1B, with homoeologs in the two durum wheat subgenomes, and an ubiquinone biosynthesis O-methyltransferase gene. On chromosome 2A, several genes related to photosynthetic processes and metabolic pathways were found in proximity to the markers associated with TKW. These results are of potential use for subsequent application in marker-assisted durum wheat-breeding programs.