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A test for a metastable epigenetic component of heterosis using haploid induction in maize

Auger DL, Ream TS, Birchler JA.
Division of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri, 117 Tucker Hall, Columbia, MO 65211-7400, USA.

We conducted a test to detect if there is a heritable epigenetic component to hybrid vigor and/or inbreeding depression. The impetus for this work was a classical study of the effect of homozygosis on the expression of the maize red color ( r1) locus. It had been shown that maintaining R1 mottling alleles in the homozygous state over several generations produces a progressive decrease of their paternally imprinted expression. This effect is reversed by R1/r1 allele heterozygosity. If this behavior were characteristic of many regulatory genes, then such a phenomenon could contribute to inbreeding depression and heterosis. To examine this question, inbreds of Mo17 and B73 and the two reciprocally produced hybrids were crossed by Stock 6 to generate four classes of maternal haploids. The mature haploid plants were measured for several quantitative traits. If inbreeding depression results from an accumulating heritable effect that is reversed by the hybrid state, one would expect the haploids derived from the hybrids to perform better than those derived from the inbred lines. The hybrid-derived haploids did not exhibit greater average performance than the inbred-derived haploids. These data fail to support the hypothesis that inbreeding depression and heterosis have a metastable epigenetic component. [1]

  1. Auger DL et al. (2004) A test for a metastable epigenetic component of heterosis using haploid induction in maize. Theor Appl Genet 108: 1017-23 PubMed
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