Romanian Maize (Zea mays) Inbred Lines as a Source of Genetic Diversity in SE Europe, and Their Potential in Future Breeding Efforts

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Plos One, 8(12), e85501 (2013) .


Maize has always been under constant human selection ever since it had been domesticated. Intensive breeding programs that resulted in the massive use of hybrids nowadays have started in the 60s. That brought significant yield increases but reduced the genetic diversity at the same time. Consequently, breeders and researchers alike turned their attention to national germplasm collections established decades ago in many countries, as they may hold allelic variations that could prove useful for future improvements. These collections are mainly composed of inbred lines originating from well-adapted local open pollinated varieties. However, there is an overall lack of data in the literature about the genetic diversity of maize in SE Europe, and its potential for future breeding efforts. There are no data, whatsoever, on the nutritional quality of the grain, primarily dictated by the zein proteins. We therefore sought to use the Romanian maize germplasm as an entry point in understanding the molecular make-up of maize in this part of Europe. By using 80 SSR markers, evenly spread throughout the genome, on 82 inbred lines from various parts of the country, we were able to decipher population structure and the existing relationships between those and the eight international standards used, including the reference sequenced genome B73. Corroborating molecular data with a standardized morphological, physiological, and biochemical characterization of all 90 inbred lines, this is the first comprehensive such study on the existing SE European maize germplasm. The inbred lines we present here are an important addition to the ever-shrinking gene pool that the breeding programs are faced-with, because of the allelic richness they hold. They may serve as parental lines in crosses that will lead to new hybrids, characterized by a high level of heterosis, nationwide and beyond, due to their existing relationship with the international germplasm.

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