Can genetic variability for nitrogen metabolism in the developing ear of maize be exploited to improve yield?
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- •Quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for the main steps of nitrogen (N) metabolism in the developing ear of maize (Zea mays L.) and their co-localization with QTLs for kernel yield and putative candidate genes were searched in order to identify chromosomal regions putatively involved in the determination of yield.
- •During the grain-filling period, the changes in physiological traits were monitored in the cob and in the developing kernels, representative of carbon and N metabolism in the developing ear. The correlations between these physiological traits and traits related to yield were examined and localized with the corresponding QTLs on a genetic map.
- •Glycine and serine metabolism in developing kernels and the cognate genes appeared to be of major importance for kernel production. The importance of kernel glutamine synthesis in the determination of yield was also confirmed.
- •The genetic and physiological bases of N metabolism in the developing ear can be studied in an integrated manner by means of a quantitative genetic approach using molecular markers and genomics, and combining agronomic, physiological and correlation studies. Such an approach leads to the identification of possible new regulatory metabolic and developmental networks specific to the ear that may be of major importance for maize productivity.