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Leaf morphology in Cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp]: QTL analysis, physical mapping and identifying a candidate gene using synteny with model legume species

Marti Pottorff1, Jeffrey D Ehlers12, Christian Fatokun3, Philip A Roberts4* and Timothy J Close1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Botany & Plant Sciences, University of California Riverside, Riverside, CA, USA

2 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle, WA, USA

3 International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria

4 Department of Nematology, University of California Riverside, Riverside, CA, USA

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BMC Genomics 2012, 13:234  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-234

Published: 12 June 2012



Cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp] exhibits a considerable variation in leaf shape. Although cowpea is mostly utilized as a dry grain and animal fodder crop, cowpea leaves are also used as a high-protein pot herb in many countries of Africa.


Leaf morphology was studied in the cowpea RIL population, Sanzi (sub-globose leaf shape) x Vita 7 (hastate leaf shape). A QTL for leaf shape, Hls (hastate leaf shape), was identified on the Sanzi x Vita 7 genetic map spanning from 56.54 cM to 67.54 cM distance on linkage group 15. SNP marker 1_0910 was the most significant over the two experiments, accounting for 74.7% phenotypic variance (LOD 33.82) in a greenhouse experiment and 71.5% phenotypic variance (LOD 30.89) in a field experiment. The corresponding Hls locus was positioned on the cowpea consensus genetic map on linkage group 4, spanning from 25.57 to 35.96 cM. A marker-trait association of the Hls region identified SNP marker 1_0349 alleles co-segregating with either the hastate or sub-globose leaf phenotype. High co-linearity was observed for the syntenic Hls region in Medicago truncatula and Glycine max. One syntenic locus for Hls was identified on Medicago chromosome 7 while syntenic regions for Hls were identified on two soybean chromosomes, 3 and 19. In all three syntenic loci, an ortholog for the EZA1/SWINGER (AT4G02020.1) gene was observed and is the candidate gene for the Hls locus. The Hls locus was identified on the cowpea physical map via SNP markers 1_0910, 1_1013 and 1_0992 which were identified in three BAC contigs; contig926, contig821 and contig25.


This study has demonstrated how integrated genomic resources can be utilized for a candidate gene approach. Identification of genes which control leaf morphology may be utilized to improve the quality of cowpea leaves for vegetable and or forage markets as well as contribute to more fundamental research understanding the control of leaf shape in legumes.

QTL analysis; Leaf morphology; Genomics; Genetics; Physical map; Synteny; Candidate genes; Cowpea; Legumes; EZA1/SWINGER