Genetic dissection of morphological variation in rosette leaves and leafy heads in cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata)

Alemán-Báez, Jorge; Qin, Jian; Cai, Chengcheng; Zou, Chunmei; Bucher, Johan; Paulo, Maria João; Voorrips, Roeland E.; Bonnema, Guusje


Key message: Correlations between morphological traits of cabbage rosette leaves and heads were found. Genome-wide association studies of these traits identified 50 robust quantitative trait loci in multiple years. Half of these loci affect both organs. Abstract: Cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata) is an economically important vegetable crop cultivated worldwide. Cabbage plants go through four vegetative stages: seedling, rosette, folding and heading. Rosette leaves are the largest leaves of cabbage plants and provide most of the energy needed to produce the leafy head. To understand the relationship and the genetic basis of leaf development and leafy head formation, 308 cabbage accessions were scored for rosette leaf and head traits in three-year field trials. Significant correlations were found between morphological traits of rosette leaves and heads, namely leaf area with the head area, height and width, and leaf width with the head area and head height, when heads were harvested at a fixed number of days after sowing. Fifty robust quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for rosette leaf and head traits distributed over all nine chromosomes were identified with genome-wide association studies. All these 50 loci were identified in multiple years and generally affect multiple traits. Twenty-five of the QTL were associated with both rosette leaf and leafy head traits. We discuss thirteen candidate genes identified in these QTL that are expressed in heading leaves, with an annotation related to auxin and other phytohormones, leaf development, and leaf polarity that likely play a role in leafy head development or rosette leaf expansion.