Jiangsu Provincial Key Laboratory of Crop Genetics and Physiology, Co-Innovation Center for Modern Production Technology of Grain Crops, Key Laboratory of Plant Functional Genomics of Ministry of Education, Yangzhou University, 225009, Yangzhou, China. [Email]
Seed filling is a dynamic process that determines seed size and nutritional quality. This time-dependent trait follows a logistic (S-shaped) growth curve that can be described by a logistic function, with parameters of biological relevance. When compared between genotypes, the filling dynamics variations are explained by the differences of parameter values; as such, the parameter estimates can be considered as "traits" for genetic analysis to identify loci that are associated with the seed-filling process. We carried out genetic and genomic analysis of the seed-filling process in maize, using a recombinant inbred line (RIL) population derived from the two inbred lines with contrasting seed-filling dynamics. We recorded seed dry weight at 14 time points after pollination, spanning the early filling phases to the late maturation stages. Fitting these data to a logistic model allowed for estimating 12 characteristic parameters that can be used to meaningfully describe the seed-filling process. Quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping of these parameters identified a total of 90 nonredundant loci. Using bulked segregant RNA-sequencing (BSR-seq) analysis, we identified eight genes that showed differential gene expression patterns at multiple time points between the extreme pools, and these genes co-localize with the mapped QTL regions. Two of the eight genes, GRMZM2G391936 and GRMZM2G008263, are implicated in starch and sucrose metabolism, and biosynthesis of secondary metabolites that are well known for playing a vital role in seed filling. This study suggests that the logistic model-based approach can efficiently identify genetic loci that regulate dynamic developing traits.