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1.  Polymorphisms in O-methyltransferase genes are associated with stover cell wall digestibility in European maize (Zea mays L.) 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:27.
OMT (O-methyltransferase) genes are involved in lignin biosynthesis, which relates to stover cell wall digestibility. Reduced lignin content is an important determinant of both forage quality and ethanol conversion efficiency of maize stover.
Variation in genomic sequences coding for COMT, CCoAOMT1, and CCoAOMT2 was analyzed in relation to stover cell wall digestibility for a panel of 40 European forage maize inbred lines, and re-analyzed for a panel of 34 lines from a published French study. Different methodologies for association analysis were performed and compared. Across association methodologies, a total number of 25, 12, 1, 6 COMT polymorphic sites were significantly associated with DNDF, OMD, NDF, and WSC, respectively. Association analysis for CCoAOMT1 and CCoAOMT2 identified substantially fewer polymorphic sites (3 and 2, respectively) associated with the investigated traits. Our re-analysis on the 34 lines from a published French dataset identified 14 polymorphic sites significantly associated with cell wall digestibility, two of them were consistent with our study. Promising polymorphisms putatively causally associated with variability of cell wall digestibility were inferred from the total number of significantly associated SNPs/Indels.
Several polymorphic sites for three O-methyltransferase loci were associated with stover cell wall digestibility. All three tested genes seem to be involved in controlling DNDF, in particular COMT. Thus, considerable variation among Bm3 wildtype alleles can be exploited for improving cell-wall digestibility. Target sites for functional markers were identified enabling development of efficient marker-based selection strategies.
PMCID: PMC2829591  PMID: 20152036
2.  Polymorphisms in monolignol biosynthetic genes are associated with biomass yield and agronomic traits in European maize (Zea mays L.) 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:12.
Reduced lignin content leads to higher cell wall digestibility and, therefore, better forage quality and increased conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into ethanol. However, reduced lignin content might lead to weaker stalks, lodging, and reduced biomass yield. Genes encoding enzymes involved in cell wall lignification have been shown to influence both cell wall digestibility and yield traits.
In this study, associations between monolignol biosynthetic genes and plant height (PHT), days to silking (DTS), dry matter content (DMC), and dry matter yield (DMY) were identified by using a panel of 39 European elite maize lines. In total, 10 associations were detected between polymorphisms or tight linkage disequilibrium (LD) groups within the COMT, CCoAOMT2, 4CL1, 4CL2, F5H, and PAL genomic fragments, respectively, and the above mentioned traits. The phenotypic variation explained by these polymorphisms or tight LD groups ranged from 6% to 25.8% in our line collection. Only 4CL1 and F5H were found to have polymorphisms associated with both yield and forage quality related characters. However, no pleiotropic polymorphisms affecting both digestibility of neutral detergent fiber (DNDF), and PHT or DMY were discovered, even under less stringent statistical conditions.
Due to absence of pleiotropic polymorphisms affecting both forage yield and quality traits, identification of optimal monolignol biosynthetic gene haplotype(s) combining beneficial quantitative trait polymorphism (QTP) alleles for both quality and yield traits appears possible within monolignol biosynthetic genes. This is beneficial to maximize forage and bioethanol yield per unit land area.
PMCID: PMC2827421  PMID: 20078869
3.  Characterization of phenylpropanoid pathway genes within European maize (Zea mays L.) inbreds 
BMC Plant Biology  2008;8:2.
Forage quality of maize is influenced by both the content and structure of lignins in the cell wall. Biosynthesis of monolignols, constituting the complex structure of lignins, is catalyzed by enzymes in the phenylpropanoid pathway.
In the present study we have amplified partial genomic fragments of six putative phenylpropanoid pathway genes in a panel of elite European inbred lines of maize (Zea mays L.) contrasting in forage quality traits. Six loci, encoding C4H, 4CL1, 4CL2, C3H, F5H, and CAD, displayed different levels of nucleotide diversity and linkage disequilibrium (LD) possibly reflecting different levels of selection. Associations with forage quality traits were identified for several individual polymorphisms within the 4CL1, C3H, and F5H genomic fragments when controlling for both overall population structure and relative kinship. A 1-bp indel in 4CL1 was associated with in vitro digestibility of organic matter (IVDOM), a non-synonymous SNP in C3H was associated with IVDOM, and an intron SNP in F5H was associated with neutral detergent fiber. However, the C3H and F5H associations did not remain significant when controlling for multiple testing.
While the number of lines included in this study limit the power of the association analysis, our results imply that genetic variation for forage quality traits can be mined in phenylpropanoid pathway genes of elite breeding lines of maize.
PMCID: PMC2265712  PMID: 18173847

Results 1-3 (3)