BMC Plant Biol. 2023 Jan 18;23(1):41. doi: 10.1186/s12870-023-04059-4.
BACKGROUND: Heterosis, or hybrid vigor, refers to the phenotypic superiority of an F1 hybrid relative to its parents in terms of growth rate, biomass production, grain yield, and stress tolerance. Light is an energy source and main environmental cue with marked impacts on heterosis in plants. Research into the production applications and mechanism of heterosis has been conducted for over a century and a half, but little is known about the effect of light on plant heterosis.
RESULTS: In this study, an integrated transcriptome and metabolome analysis was performed using maize (Zea mays L.) inbred parents, B73 and Mo17, and their hybrids, B73 × Mo17 (BM) and Mo17 × B73 (MB), grown in darkness or under far-red, red, or blue light. Most differentially expressed genes (73.72-92.50%) and differentially accumulated metabolites (84.74-94.32%) exhibited non-additive effects in BM and MB hybrids. Gene Ontology analysis revealed that differential genes and metabolites were involved in glutathione transfer, carbohydrate transport, terpenoid biosynthesis, and photosynthesis. The darkness, far-red, red, and blue light treatments were all associated with phenylpropanoid-flavonoid biosynthesis by Weighted Gene Co-expression Network Analysis and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes enrichment analysis. Five genes and seven metabolites related to phenylpropanoid-flavonoid biosynthesis pathway were identified as potential contributors to the interactions between maize heterosis and light conditions. Consistent with the strong mid-parent heterosis observed for metabolites, significant increases in both fresh and dry weights were found in the MB and BM hybrids compared with their inbred parents. Unexpectedly, increasing light intensity resulted in higher biomass heterosis in MB, but lower biomass heterosis in BM.
CONCLUSIONS: The transcriptomic and metabolomic results provide unique insights into the effects of light quality on gene expression patterns and genotype-environment interactions, and have implications for gene mining of heterotic loci to improve maize production.