Genetic control of root anatomical plasticity in maize

Hannah M. Schneider, Stephanie P. Klein, Meredith T. Hanlon, Shawn Kaeppler, Kathleen M. Brown, Jonathan P. Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Root anatomical phenes have important roles in soil resource capture and plant performance; however, their phenotypic plasticity and genetic architecture is poorly understood. We hypothesized that (a) the responses of root anatomical phenes to water deficit (stress plasticity) and different environmental conditions (environmental plasticity) are genetically controlled and (b) stress and environmental plasticity are associated with different genetic loci than those controlling the expression of phenes under water-stress and well-watered conditions. Root anatomy was phenotyped in a large maize (Zea mays L.) association panel in the field with and without water deficit stress in Arizona and without water deficit stress in South Africa. Anatomical phenes displayed stress and environmental plasticity; many phenotypic responses to water deficit were adaptive, and the magnitude of response varied by genotype. We identified 57 candidate genes associated with stress and environmental plasticity and 64 candidate genes associated with phenes under well-watered and water-stress conditions in Arizona and under well-watered conditions in South Africa. Four candidate genes co-localized between plasticity groups or for phenes expressed under each condition. The genetic architecture of phenotypic plasticity is highly quantitative, and many distinct genes control plasticity in response to water deficit and different environments, which poses a challenge for breeding programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere20003
JournalPlant Genome
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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