Marker-assisted breeding is a very useful tool for breeders but still lags behind its potential because information on the effect of quantitative trait loci (QTLs) in different genetic backgrounds and ideal molecular markers are unavailable. Here, we report on some first steps toward the validation and application of the major rice QTL Phosphate uptake 1 (Pup1) that confers tolerance of phosphorus (P) deficiency in rice (Oryza sativa L.). Based on the Pup1 genomic sequence of the tolerant donor variety Kasalath that recently became available, markers were designed that target (1) putative genes that are partially conserved in the Nipponbare reference genome and (2) Kasalath-specific genes that are located in a large insertion-deletion (INDEL) region that is absent in Nipponbare. Testing these markers in 159 diverse rice accessions confirmed their diagnostic value across genotypes and showed that Pup1 is present in more than 50% of rice accessions adapted to stress-prone environments, whereas it was detected in only about 10% of the analyzed irrigated/lowland varieties. Furthermore, the Pup1 locus was detected in more than 80% of the analyzed drought-tolerant rice breeding lines, suggesting that breeders are unknowingly selecting for Pup1. A hydroponics experiment revealed genotypic differences in the response to P deficiency between upland and irrigated varieties but confirmed that root elongation is independent of Pup1. Contrasting Pup1 near-isogenic lines (NILs) were subsequently grown in two different P-deficient soils and environments. Under the applied aerobic growth conditions, NILs with the Pup1 locus maintained significantly higher grain weight plant−1 under P deprivation in comparison with intolerant sister lines without Pup1. Overall, the data provide evidence that Pup1 has the potential to improve yield in P-deficient and/or drought-prone environments and in diverse genetic backgrounds.
TAG Theoretical and Applied Genetics, Online publication 24 December 2009 [doi: 10.1007/s00122-009-1235-7]