Identification of candidate genes and natural allelic variants for QTLs governing plant height in chickpea
In the present study, molecular mapping of high-resolution plant height QTLs was performed by integrating 3625 desi genome-derived GBS (genotyping-by-sequencing)-SNPs on an ultra-high resolution intra-specific chickpea genetic linkage map (dwarf/semi-dwarf desi cv. ICC12299 x tall kabuli cv. ICC8261). The identified six major genomic regions harboring six robust QTLs (11.5–21.3 PVE), associated with plant height, were mapped within <0.5 cM average marker intervals on six chromosomes. Five SNPs-containing genes tightly linked to the five plant height QTLs, were validated based upon their high potential for target trait association (12.9–20.8 PVE) in 65 desi and kabuli chickpea accessions. The vegetative tissue-specific expression, including higher differential up-regulation (>5-fold) of five genes especially in shoot, young leaf, shoot apical meristem of tall mapping parental accession (ICC8261) as compared to that of dwarf/semi-dwarf parent (ICC12299) was apparent. Overall, combining high-resolution QTL mapping with genetic association analysis and differential expression profiling, delineated natural allelic variants in five candidate genes (encoding cytochrome-c-biosynthesis protein, malic oxidoreductase, NADH dehydrogenase iron-sulfur protein, expressed protein and bZIP transcription factor) regulating plant height in chickpea. These molecular tags have potential to dissect complex plant height trait and accelerate marker-assisted genetic enhancement for developing cultivars with desirable plant height ideotypes in chickpea.