Multi-trait genome-wide association studies reveal loci associated with maize inflorescence and leaf architecture

Brian R. Rice, Samuel B. Fernandes, Alexander E. Lipka

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Maize inflorescence is a complex phenotype that involves the physical and developmental interplay of multiple traits. Given the evidence that genes could pleiotropically contribute to several of these traits, we used publicly available maize data to assess the ability of multivariate genome-wide association study (GWAS) approaches to identify pleiotropic quantitative trait loci (pQTL). Our analysis of 23 publicly available inflorescence and leaf-related traits in a diversity panel of n ¼ 281 maize lines genotyped with 376,336 markers revealed that the two multivariate GWAS approaches we tested were capable of identifying pQTL in genomic regions coinciding with similar associations found in previous studies. We then conducted a parallel simulation study on the same individuals, where it was shown that multivariate GWAS approaches yielded a higher true-positive quantitative trait nucleotide (QTN) detection rate than comparable univariate approaches for all evaluated simulation settings except for when the correlated simulated traits had a heritability of 0.9. We therefore conclude that the implementation of state-of-the-art multivariate GWAS approaches is a useful tool for dissecting pleiotropy and their more widespread implementation could facilitate the discovery of genes and other biological mechanisms underlying maize inflorescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1427-1437
Number of pages11
JournalPlant and Cell Physiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • GWAS
  • Inflorescence
  • Maize
  • Multivariate
  • Pleiotropy
  • Simulations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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