The accumulation and remobilization of stem water soluble carbohydrates (WSC) are determinant physiological traits highly influencing yield potential in wheat against drought stress. However, knowledge gains of the genetic control are still limited. A hexaploid wheat population of 120 recombinant inbred lines were developed to identify quantitative trait loci (QTLs) and to dissect the genetic basis underlying eight traits related to stem WSC under drought stress (DS) and well-watered (WW) conditions across three environments.
Analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed larger environmental and genotypic effects on stem WSC-related traits, indicating moderate heritabilities of 0.51–0.72. A total of 95 additive and 88 pairs of epistatic QTLs were identified with significant additive and epistatic effects, as well as QTL× water environmental interaction (QEI) effects. Most of additive QTLs and additive QEIs associated with drought-stressed environments functioned genetic effects promoting pre-anthesis WSC levels and stem WSC remobilization to developing grains. Compared to other genetic components, both genetic effects were performed exclusive contributions to phenotypic variations in stem WSC-related traits. Nineteen QTL clusters were identified on chromosomes 1B, 2A, 2B, 2D, 3B, 4B, 5A, 6A, 6B and 7A, suggestive of the genetic linkage or pleiotropy. Thirteen additive QTLs were detectable repeatedly across two of the three water environments, indicating features of stable expressions. Some loci were consistent with those reported early and were further discussed.
Stem WSC-related traits were inherited predominantly by additive and QEI effects with a moderate heritability. QTL cluster regions were suggestive of tight linkage or pleiotropy in the inheritance of these traits. Some stable and common loci, as well as closely linked molecular markers, had great potential in marker-assisted selection to improve stem WSC-related traits in wheat, especially under drought-stressed environments.