Drought is one of the major factors limiting barley yields in many developing countries worldwide. The identification of molecular markers linked to genes controlling drought tolerance in barley is one way to improve breeding efficiency. In this study, we analyzed the quantitative trait loci (QTL) controlling chlorophyll content and chlorophyll fluorescence in 194 recombinant inbred lines (RILs) developed from the cross between the cultivar 'Arta' and Hordeum spontaneum 41-1. Five traits, chlorophyll content, and four chlorophyll fluorescence parameters, namely initial fluorescence (Fo), maximum fluorescence (Fm), variable fluorescence (Fv), and maximum quantum efficiency of PSII (Fv/Fm) which are related to the activity of the photosynthetic apparatus, were measured under well-watered and drought stress conditions at post-flowering stage. QTL analysis identified a total of nine and five genomic regions, under well-watered and drought stress conditions, respectively, that were significantly associated with the expression of the five target traits at post-flowering stage. No common QTL was detected except one for chlorophyll content, which was identified in both growth conditions, demonstrating that the genetic control of the expression of the traits related to photosynthesis differed under different water conditions. A QTL for Fv/Fm, which is related to the drought tolerance of photosynthesis was identified on chromosome 2H at 116 cM in the linkage map under drought stress. This QTL alone explained more than 15% of phenotypic variance of maximum quantum yield of PSII, and was also associated with the expression of four other traits. In addition, another QTL for Fv/Fm was also located on the same chromosome (2H) but at 135.7 cM explaining around 9% of the phenotypic variance under drought conditions. The result presented here suggest that two major loci, located on chromosome 2H, are involved in the development of functional chloroplast at post-flowering stage for drought tolerance of photosynthesis in barley under drought stress. If validated in other populations, chlorophyll fluorescence parameters could be used as selection criteria for drought tolerance.
Euphytica (2008) 163 (2) 203-214 [doi: 10.1007/s10681-007-9629-6]