Front Plant Sci. 2022 Oct 19;13:1008954. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2022.1008954. eCollection 2022.
Drought stress in Southeast Asia greatly affects rice production, and the rice root system plays a substantial role in avoiding drought stress. In this study, we examined the phenotypic and genetic correlations among root anatomical, morphological, and agronomic phenotypes over multiple field seasons. A set of >200 rice accessions from Southeast Asia (a subset of the 3000 Rice Genomes Project) was characterized with the aim to identify root morphological and anatomical phenotypes related to productivity under drought stress. Drought stress resulted in slight increases in the basal metaxylem and stele diameter of nodal roots. Although few direct correlations between root phenotypes and grain yield were identified, biomass was consistently positively correlated with crown root number and negatively correlated with stele diameter. The accessions with highest grain yield were characterized by higher crown root numbers and median metaxylem diameter and smaller stele diameter. Genome-wide association study (GWAS) revealed 162 and 210 significant SNPs associated with root phenotypes in the two seasons which resulted in identification of 59 candidate genes related to root development. The gene OsRSL3 was found in a QTL region for median metaxylem diameter. Four SNPs in OsRSL3 were found that caused amino acid changes and significantly associated with the root phenotype. Based on the haplotype analysis for median metaxylem diameter, the rice accessions studied were classified into five allele combinations in order to identify the most favorable haplotypes. The candidate genes and favorable haplotypes provide information useful for the genetic improvement of root phenotypes under drought stress.