Genome-wide association mapping for wood characteristics in Populus identifies an array of candidate single nucleotide polymorphisms



  • Establishing links between phenotypes and molecular variants is of central importance to accelerate genetic improvement of economically important plant species. Our work represents the first genome-wide association study to the inherently complex and currently poorly understood genetic architecture of industrially relevant wood traits.
  • Here, we employed an Illumina Infinium 34K single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping array that generated 29 233 high-quality SNPs in c. 3500 broad-based candidate genes within a population of 334 unrelated Populus trichocarpa individuals to establish genome-wide associations.
  • The analysis revealed 141 significant SNPs (α ≤ 0.05) associated with 16 wood chemistry/ultrastructure traits, individually explaining 3–7% of the phenotypic variance. A large set of associations (41% of all hits) occurred in candidate genes preselected for their suggested a priori involvement with secondary growth. For example, an allelic variant in the FRA8 ortholog explained 21% of the total genetic variance in fiber length, when the trait's heritability estimate was considered. The remaining associations identified SNPs in genes not previously implicated in wood or secondary wall formation.
  • Our findings provide unique insights into wood trait architecture and support efforts for population improvement based on desirable allelic variants.