Assessment of heterosis in two arabidopsis thaliana common-reference mapping populations

Marieke H.A. van Hulten, Maria Joāo Paulo, Willem Kruijer, Hetty Blankestijn-de Vries, Brend Kemperman, Frank F.M. Becker, Jiaming Yang, Kathrin Lauss, Maike E. Stam, Fred A. van Eeuwijk, Joost J.B. Keurentjes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Hybrid vigour, or heterosis, has been of tremendous importance in agriculture for the improvement of both crops and livestock. Notwithstanding large efforts to study the phenomenon of heterosis in the last decades, the identification of common molecular mechanisms underlying hybrid vigour remain rare. Here, we conducted a systematic survey of the degree of heterosis in Arabidopsis thaliana hybrids. For this purpose, two overlapping Arabidopsis hybrid populations were generated by crossing a large collection of naturally occurring accessions to two common reference lines. In these Arabidopsis hybrid populations the range of heterosis for several developmental and yield related traits was examined, and the relationship between them was studied. The traits under study were projected leaf area at 17 days after sowing, flowering time, height of the main inflorescence, number of side branches from the main stem or from the rosette base, total seed yield, seed weight, seed size and the estimated number of seeds per plant. Predominantly positive heterosis was observed for leaf area and height of the main inflorescence, whereas mainly negative heterosis was observed for rosette branching. For the other traits both positive and negative heterosis was observed in roughly equal amounts. For flowering time and seed size only low levels of heterosis were detected. In general the observed heterosis levels were highly trait specific. Furthermore, no correlation was observed between heterosis levels and the genetic distance between the parental lines. Since all selected lines were a part of the Arabidopsis genome wide association (GWA) mapping panel, a genetic mapping approach was applied to identify possible regions harbouring genetic factors causal for heterosis, with separate calculations for additive and dominance effects. Our study showed that the genetic mechanisms underlying heterosis were highly trait specific in our hybrid populations and greatly depended on the genetic background, confirming the elusive character of heterosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0205564
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2018


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