A pan-Zea genome map for enhancing maize improvement

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Background: Maize (Zea mays L.) is at the vanguard facing the upcoming breeding challenges. However, both a super pan-genome for the Zea genus and a comprehensive genetic variation map for maize breeding are still lacking.

Results: Here, we construct an approximately 6.71-Gb pan-Zea genome that contains around 4.57-Gb non-B73 reference sequences from fragmented de novo assemblies of 721 pan-Zea individuals. We annotate a total of 58,944 pan-Zea genes and find around 44.34% of them are dispensable in the pan-Zea population. Moreover, 255,821 common structural variations are identified and genotyped in a maize association mapping panel. Further analyses reveal gene presence/absence variants and their potential roles during domestication of maize. Combining genetic analyses with multi-omics data, we demonstrate how structural variants are associated with complex agronomic traits.

Conclusions: Our results highlight the underexplored role of the pan-Zea genome and structural variations to further understand domestication of maize and explore their potential utilization in crop improvement.

Genome Biology