Identification of a major QTL together with several minor additive or epistatic QTLs for resistance to fire blight in apple in two related progenies
Although fire blight, caused by the bacterium Erwinia amylovora, is one of the most destructive diseases of apple (Malus x domestica) worldwide, no major, qualitative gene for resistance to this disease has been identified to date in apple. We conducted a quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis in two F(1) progenies derived from crosses between the cultivars Fiesta and either Discovery or Prima. Both progenies were inoculated in the greenhouse with the same strain of E. amylovora, and the length of necrosis was scored 7 days and 14 days after inoculation. Additive QTLs were identified using the MAPQTL: software, and digenic epistatic interactions, which are an indication of putative epistatic QTLs, were detected by two-way analyses of variance. A major QTL explaining 34.3--46.6% of the phenotypic variation was identified on linkage group (LG) 7 of Fiesta in both progenies at the same genetic position. Four minor QTLs were also identified on LGs 3, 12 and 13. In addition, several significant digenic interactions were identified in both progenies. These results confirm the complex polygenic nature of resistance to fire blight in the progenies studied and also reveal the existence of a major QTL on LG7 that is stable in two distinct genetic backgrounds. This QTL could be a valuable target in marker-assisted selection to obtain new, fire blight-resistant apple cultivars and forms a starting point for discovering the function of the genes underlying such QTLs involved in fire blight control.
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