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Open Access Research article

AB-QTL analysis reveals new alleles associated to proline accumulation and leaf wilting under drought stress conditions in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.)

Mohammed A Sayed1, Henrik Schumann1, Klaus Pillen2, Ali A Naz1 and Jens Léon1*

Author Affiliations

1 University of Bonn, Institute of Crop Science and Resource Conservation, Crop Genetics and Biotechnology Unit, Katzenburgweg 5, Bonn, 53115, Germany

2 Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Institute for Agricultural and Nutritional Sciences, Plant Breeding, Betty-Heimann-Str. 3, Halle, 06120, Germany

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BMC Genetics 2012, 13:61  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-13-61

Published: 20 July 2012



Land plants have evolved several measures to maintain their life against abiotic stresses. The accumulation of proline is the most generalized response of plants under drought, heat or salt stress conditions. It is known as an osmoprotectant which also acts as an instant source of energy during drought recovery process. But, both its role and genetic inheritance are poorly understood in agriculture crops. In the present work, advanced backcross quantitative trait locus (AB-QTL) analysis was performed to elucidate genetic mechanisms controlling proline accumulation and leaf wilting in barley under drought stress conditions.


The analysis revealed eight QTL associated to proline content (PC) and leaf wilting (WS). QTL for PC were localized on chromosome 3H, 4H, 5H and 6H. The strongest QTL effect QPC.S42.5H was detected on chromosome 5H where drought inducible exotic allele was associated to increase PC by 54%. QTL effects QPC.S42.3H, QPC.S42.4H and QPC.S42.6H were responsible to heighten PC due to the preeminence of elite alleles over the exotic alleles which ranged from 26% to 43%. For WS, QTL have been localized on chromosome 1H, 2H, 3H and 4H. Among these, QWS.S42.1H and QWS.S42.4H were associated to decrease in WS due to the introgression of exotic alleles. In addition, two digenic epistatic interaction effects were detected for WS where the additive effect of exotic alleles imparted a favorable increase in the trait value.


The present data represents a first report on whole-genome mapping of proline accumulation and leaf wilting in barley. The detected QTL are linked to new alleles from both cultivated and wild accessions which bring out an initial insight on the genetic inheritance of PC and WS. These QTL alleles are fixed in the isogenic background of Scarlett, which will allow for positional cloning of underlying genes and to develop drought resilient barley cultivars.

QTL analysis; Drought stress tolerance; Proline content; Leaf wilting