Genomic architecture of biomass heterosis in Arabidopsis [Plant Biology]
Heterosis is most frequently manifested by the substantially increased vigorous growth of hybrids compared with their parents. Investigating genomic variations in natural populations is essential to understand the initial molecular mechanisms underlying heterosis in plants. Here, we characterized the genomic architecture associated with biomass heterosis in 200 Arabidopsis hybrids. The genome-wide heterozygosity of hybrids makes a limited contribution to biomass heterosis, and no locus shows an obvious overdominance effect in hybrids. However, the accumulation of significant genetic loci identified in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in hybrids strongly correlates with better-parent heterosis (BPH). Candidate genes for biomass BPH fall into diverse biological functions, including cellular, metabolic, and developmental processes and stimulus-responsive pathways. Important heterosis candidates include WUSCHEL, ARGOS, and some genes that encode key factors involved in cell cycle regulation. Interestingly, transcriptomic analyses in representative Arabidopsis hybrid combinations reveal that heterosis candidate genes are functionally enriched in stimulus-responsive pathways, including responses to biotic and abiotic stimuli and immune responses. In addition, stimulus-responsive genes are repressed to low-parent levels in hybrids with high BPH, whereas middle-parent expression patterns are exhibited in hybrids with no BPH. Our study reveals a genomic architecture for understanding the molecular mechanisms of biomass heterosis in Arabidopsis, in which the accumulation of the superior alleles of genes involved in metabolic and cellular processes improve the development and growth of hybrids, whereas the overall repressed expression of stimulus-responsive genes prioritizes growth over responding to environmental stimuli in hybrids under normal conditions.
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