Genome-wide association analysis of seedling traits in diverse Sorghum germplasm under thermal stress

Ratan Chopra, Gloria Burow, John J. Burke, Nicholas Gladman, Zhanguo Xin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background: Climate variability due to fluctuation in temperature is a worldwide concern that imperils crop production. The need to understand how the germplasm variation in major crops can be utilized to aid in discovering and developing breeding lines that can withstand and adapt to temperature fluctuations is more necessary than ever. Here, we analyzed the genetic variation associated with responses to thermal stresses in a sorghum association panel (SAP) representing major races and working groups to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are associated with resilience to temperature stress in a major cereal crop. Results: The SAP exhibited extensive variation for seedling traits under cold and heat stress. Genome-wide analyses identified 30 SNPs that were strongly associated with traits measured at seedling stage under cold stress and tagged genes that act as regulators of anthocyanin expression and soluble carbohydrate metabolism. Meanwhile, 12 SNPs were significantly associated with seedling traits under heat stress and these SNPs tagged genes that function in sugar metabolism, and ion transport pathways. Evaluation of co-expression networks for genes near the significantly associated SNPs indicated complex gene interactions for cold and heat stresses in sorghum. We focused and validated the expression of four genes in the network of Sb06g025040, a basic-helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor that was proposed to be involved in purple color pigmentation of leaf, and observed that genes in this network were upregulated during cold stress in a moderately tolerant line as compared to the more sensitive line. Conclusion: This study facilitated the tagging of genome regions associated with variation in seedling traits of sorghum under cold and heat stress. These findings show the potential of genotype information for development of temperature resilient sorghum cultivars and further characterization of genes and their networks responsible for adaptation to thermal stresses. Knowledge on the gene networks from this research can be extended to the other cereal crops to better understand the genetic basis of resilience to temperature fluctuations during plant developmental stages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
JournalBMC plant biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 13 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by USDA-ARS CRIS project 6208-21000-020-00D and the United Sorghum Checkoff Program (USCP) grant on “Genetic Enhancement of Sorghums”. Ratan Chopra is funded through the USCP extramural grant, Nicholas Gladman is supported by Class of 2015 Postdoctoral Research Grant from USDA-ARS.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).


  • Anthocyanin
  • Gene network
  • Genome wide association
  • Sorghum association panel
  • Temperature resilience
  • Thermal stress


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