||Genetic variation in ZmVPP1 contributes to drought tolerance in maize seedlings.
||Wang Xianglan X,Wang Hongwei H,Liu Shengxue S,Ferjani Ali A,Li Jiansheng J,Yan Jianbing J,Yang Xiaohong X,Qin Feng F
||Maize production is threatened by drought stress worldwide. Identification of the genetic components underlying drought tolerance in maize is of great importance. Here we report a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of maize drought tolerance at the seedling stage that identified 83 genetic variants, which were resolved to 42 candidate genes. The peak GWAS signal showed that the natural variation in ZmVPP1, encoding a vacuolar-type H(+) pyrophosphatase, contributes most significantly to the trait. Further analysis showed that a 366-bp insertion in the promoter, containing three MYB cis elements, confers drought-inducible expression of ZmVPP1 in drought-tolerant genotypes. Transgenic maize with enhanced ZmVPP1 expression exhibits improved drought tolerance that is most likely due to enhanced photosynthetic efficiency and root development. Taken together, this information provides important genetic insights into the natural variation of maize drought tolerance. The identified loci or genes can serve as direct targets for both genetic engineering and selection for maize trait improvement.