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Natural variations in the P-type ATPase heavy metal transporter ZmCd1 controlling cadmium accumulation in maize grains

By Bin Tang, Meijie Luo, Yunxia Zhang, Jingna Li, Huanle Guo, Wei Song, Ruyang Zhang, Zhen Feng, Mengsi Kong, Han Li, Zhongyang Cao, Xiaoduo Lu, Delin Li, Jianhua Zhang, Ronghuan Wang, Yuandong Wang, Zhihui Chen, Yanxin Zhao, Jiuran Zhao

Posted 14 Jan 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.01.13.426291

Cadmium (Cd) accumulation in maize grains is detrimental to human health. Developing maize varieties with low-Cd contents via marker-assisted selection is important for ensuring the production of maize grains safe for consumption. However, the key gene controlling maize grain Cd accumulation has not been cloned. In this study, we identified two major loci for maize grain Cd accumulation (qCd1 and qCd2) on chromosome 2 during a genome-wide association study (GWAS). The qCd1 locus was analyzed by bulked segregant RNA-seq and fine mapping with a biparental segregating population of Jing724 (low-Cd line) and Mo17 (high-Cd line). The ZmCd1 candidate gene in the qCd1 locus encodes a vacuolar membrane-localized heavy metal P-type ATPase transporter, ZmHMA3, which is orthologous to the tonoplast Cd transporter OsHMA3. Genomic DNA sequence and transcript analyses suggested that a transposon in intron 1 of ZmCd1 is responsible for the abnormal amino acid sequence in Mo17. An EMS mutant analysis and an allelism test confirmed ZmCd1 influences maize grain Cd accumulation. The natural variations in ZmCd1 were used to develop four PCR-based molecular markers, which revealed five ZmCd1 haplotypes in the GWAS population. The molecular markers were also used to predict the grain Cd contents in commonly cultivated maize germplasms in China. The predicted Cd contents for 36 inbred lines and 13 hybrids were consistent with the measured Cd contents. Furthermore, several low-Cd elite inbred lines and hybrids were identified, including Jing2416, MC01, Jingnonke728, and Jingke968. Therefore, the molecular markers developed in this study are applicable for molecular breeding and developing maize varieties with low grain Cd contents.

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