SPP 1530: Flowering Time Control - from Natural Variation to Crop Improvement

PP-20: Ballvora, Leon

Genetic and molecular analysis of epistatic interactions in flowering time pathways identified in a barley multi-parent advanced generation intercross (MAGIC) population

Recent studies in barley have demonstrated the importance of epistatic interactions in the domestication-related traits including heading date. Epistatic effects_BallvoraTherefore, considering epistatic genetic effects and analysis of Interactive molecular pathways would on one side lead to an increased selection gain in marker-assisted breeding and on the other side corroborate the significant role of epistatic effects for a deeper understanding of flowering time in cereals


Hypothesis on which the project is based on:

  • MAGIC based populations constitute a solid basic for genetic analysis of epistatic effects and identification of genes interacting in “positive direction” by complementing or enhancing each other or “negative direction” with suppressor activity of one locus towards the other;
  • Genes with epistatic effects to flowering time are regulated at transcription level in time and tissue specific manner and possibly reciprocally


The data obtained in barley can be transferred to other important and genetically more complex crops like wheat. The main goal is the functional characterization of epistatic effects for “flowering time” in barley at genetic and molecular level. MAGIC_Ballvora

MAGIC –population based epistatic analysis offers a platform for identification of novel gene interactions in the transition from vegetative to reproductive phase. The validation in wheat of the results from barley will give new evidence for the trait in complex genomes like wheat and show the transferability of the data across the cereal species. The results will help for a better understanding of the pathways leading to flowering initiation and will offer the cereal breeders tools for knowledge-based breeding programs.

Partial objectives of this study are:

Improved haplotype block building through higher dense genetic map (50K SNP chip) resulting in increase of the resolution of estimated epistatic effects for flowering time in the MAGIC population;

  • Estimation and validation in other winter and spring barley association panels of the selected loci;
  • Identification of candidate genes at loci with epistatic effects and analysis of allelic variation at the structural level;
  • Kinetic and plant organ expression of interacting genes to better understand the molecular basis of epistasis in flowering initiation;
  • Transfer and validation of determined epistatic effects from barley to wheat as an economical important self pollinating crop.


Project-related publications:

Maurer A, Sannemann W, Léon J, Pillen K (2017). Estimating parent-specific QTL effects through cumulating linked identity-by-state SNP effects in multiparental populations. Heredity (Edinb) http://www.nature.com/hdy/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/hdy2016121a.html

Sannemann W, Huang BE, Mathew B, Léon J (2015). Multi-parent advanced generation inter-cross in barley: high-resolution quantitative trait locus mapping for flowering time as a proof of concept. Molecular Breeding. 35:86. DOI: 10.1007/s11032-015-0284-7. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11032-015-0284-7

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