Genetic mapping of maize metabolites using high-throughput mass profiling

Tzitziki González-Rodríguez, Sergio Pérez-Limón, Héctor Peniche-Pavía, Rubén Rellán-Álvarez, Ruairidh J.H. Sawers, Robert Winkler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Plant metabolites are the basis of human nutrition and have biological relevance in ecology. Farmers selected plants with favorable characteristics since prehistoric times and improved the cultivars, but without knowledge of underlying mechanisms. Understanding the genetic basis of metabolite production can facilitate the successful breeding of plants with augmented nutritional value. To identify genetic factors related to the metabolic composition in maize, we generated mass profiles of 198 recombinant inbred lines (RILs) and their parents (B73 and Mo17) using direct-injection electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (DLI-ESI MS). Mass profiling allowed the correct clustering of samples according to genotype. We quantified 71 mass features from grains and 236 mass features from leaf extracts. For the corresponding ions, we identified tissue-specific metabolic ‘Quantitative Trait Loci’ (mQTLs) distributed across the maize genome. These genetic regions could regulate multiple metabolite biosynthesis pathways. Our findings demonstrate that DLI-ESI MS has sufficient analytical resolution to map mQTLs. These identified genetic loci will be helpful in metabolite-focused maize breeding. Mass profiling is a powerful tool for detecting mQTLs in maize and enables the high-throughput screening of loci responsible for metabolite biosynthesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number111530
JournalPlant Science
StatePublished - Jan 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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