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posted on 28.10.2021, 04:40 authored by Xinyi Wu, Ting Sun, Wenzhao Xu, Yudong Sun, Baogen Wang, Ying Wang, Yanwei Li, Jian Wang, Xiaohua Wu, Zhongfu Lu, Pei Xu, Guojing Li

Drought is one of the most devasting and frequent abiotic stresses in agriculture. While many morphological, biochemical and physiological indicators are being used to quantify plant drought responses, stomatal control, and hence the transpiration and photosynthesis regulation through it, is of particular importance in marking the plant capacity of balancing stress response and yield. Due to the difficulties in simultaneous, large-scale measurement of stomatal traits such as sensitivity and speed of stomatal closure under progressive soil drought, forward genetic mapping of these important behaviors has long been unavailable. The recent emerging phenomic technologies offer solutions to identify the water relations of whole plant and assay the stomatal regulation in a dynamic process at the population level. Here, we report high-throughput physiological phenotyping of water relations of 106 cowpea accessions under progressive drought stress, which, in combination of genome-wide association study (GWAS), enables genetic mapping of the complex, stomata-related drought responsive traits “critical soil water content” (θcri) and “slope of transpiration rate declining” (KTr). The 106 accessions showed large variations in θcri and KTr, indicating that they had broad spectrum of stomatal control in response to soil water deficit, which may confer them different levels of drought tolerance. Univariate GWAS identified six and fourteen significant SNPs associated with θcri and KTr, respectively. The detected SNPs distributed in nine chromosomes and accounted for 8.7–21% of the phenotypic variation, suggesting that both stomatal sensitivity to soil drought and the speed of stomatal closure to completion were controlled by multiple genes with moderate effects. Multivariate GWAS detected ten more significant SNPs in addition to confirming eight of the twenty SNPs as detected by univariate GWAS. Integrated, a final set of 30 significant SNPs associated with stomatal closure were reported. Taken together, our work, by combining phenomics and genetics, enables forward genetic mapping of the genetic architecture of stomatal traits related to drought tolerance, which not only provides a basis for molecular breeding of drought resistant cultivars of cowpea, but offers a new methodology to explore the genetic determinants of water budgeting in crops under stressful conditions in the phenomics era.

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