Leveraging orthology within maize and Arabidopsis QTL to identify genes affecting natural variation in gravitropism

Takeshi Yoshihara, Nathan D. Miller, Fernando A. Rabanal, Hannah Myles, Il Youp Kwak, Karl W. Broman, Boris Sadkhin, Ivan Baxter, Brian P. Dilkes, Matthew E. Hudson, Edgar P. Spalding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Plants typically orient their organs with respect to the Earth’s gravity field by a dynamic process called gravitropism. To discover conserved genetic elements affecting seedling root gravitropism, we measured the process in a set of Zea mays (maize) recombinant inbred lines with machine vision and compared the results with those obtained in a similar study of Arabidopsis thaliana. Each of the several quantitative trait loci that we mapped in both species spanned many hundreds of genes, too many to test individually for causality. We reasoned that orthologous genes may be responsible for natural variation in monocot and dicot root gravitropism. If so, pairs of orthologous genes affecting gravitropism may be present within the maize and Arabidopsis QTL intervals. A reciprocal comparison of sequences within the QTL intervals identified seven pairs of such one-to-one orthologs. Analysis of knockout mutants demonstrated a role in gravitropism for four of the seven: CCT2 functions in phosphatidylcholine biosynthesis, ATG5 functions in membrane remodeling during autophagy, UGP2 produces the substrate for cellulose and callose polymer extension, and FAMA is a transcription factor. Automated phenotyping enabled this discovery of four naturally varying components of a conserved process (gravitropism) by making it feasible to conduct the same large-scale experiment in two species.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2212199119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number40
StatePublished - Oct 4 2022


  • QTL
  • gravitropism
  • high-throughput phenotyping
  • orthology


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