Genome Wide Association Study Uncovers the QTLome for Osmotic Adjustment and Related Drought Adaptive Traits in Durum Wheat

Giuseppe Emanuele Condorell, Maria Newcomb, Eder Licieri Groli, Marco Maccaferri, Cristian Forestan, Ebrahim Babaeian, Markus Tuller, Jeffrey Westcott White, Rick Ward, Todd Mockler, Nadia Shakoor, Roberto Tuberosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Osmotic adjustment (OA) is a major component of drought resistance in crops. The genetic basis of OA in wheat and other crops remains largely unknown. In this study, 248 field-grown durum wheat elite accessions grown under well-watered conditions, underwent a progressively severe drought treatment started at heading. Leaf samples were collected at heading and 17 days later. The following traits were considered: flowering time (FT), leaf relative water content (RWC), osmotic potential (ψs), OA, chlorophyll content (SPAD), and leaf rolling (LR). The high variability (3.89-fold) in OA among drought-stressed accessions resulted in high repeatability of the trait (h2 = 72.3%). Notably, a high positive correlation (r = 0.78) between OA and RWC was found under severe drought conditions. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) revealed 15 significant QTLs (Quantitative Trait Loci) for OA (global R2 = 63.6%), as well as eight major QTL hotspots/clusters on chromosome arms 1BL, 2BL, 4AL, 5AL, 6AL, 6BL, and 7BS, where a higher OA capacity was positively associated with RWC and/or SPAD, and negatively with LR, indicating a beneficial effect of OA on the water status of the plant. The comparative analysis with the results of 15 previous field trials conducted under varying water regimes showed concurrent effects of five OA QTL cluster hotspots on normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), thousand-kernel weight (TKW), and/or grain yield (GY). Gene content analysis of the cluster regions revealed the presence of several candidate genes, including bidi-rectional sugar transporter SWEET, rhomboid-like protein, and S-adenosyl-L-methionine-dependent methyltransferases superfamily protein, as well as DREB1. Our results support OA as a valuable proxy for marker-assisted selection (MAS) aimed at enhancing drought resistance in wheat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number293
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Drought
  • Durum wheat
  • Osmotic adjustment
  • QTL

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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