Three pleiotropic QTL regions associated with spikelet number and heading date were identified, with FT-A1 considered the candidate gene for QTspn/Hd.cau-7A.


Spikelet number traits and heading date (HD) play key roles in yield improvement of wheat and its wide adaptation to different environments. Here, we used a Recombinant Inbred Lines population derived from a cross between Yi5029 (5029) and Nongda4332 (4332) to construct a high-density genetic linkage map and identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with total spikelet number per spike (TSPN), fertile spikelet number per spike (FSPN), sterile spikelet number per spike (SSPN) and HD. A total of 22 environmentally stable QTL for TSPN, FSPN, SSPN and HD were identified. Notably, three pleiotropic QTL regions for TSPN and HD were detected on chromosomes 2A, 7A and 7D. The QTL associated with TSPN and HD on chromosome 7AS was designated QTspn/Hd.cau-7A. Furthermore, the candidate gene FT-A1 located in the region of QTspn/Hd.cau-7A had a single-nucleotide polymorphism (T–G) within the third exon, which might be the cause of diversity in spikelet number and HD between the two parents. Additionally, we developed a semi-thermal asymmetric reverse PCR (STARP) marker to analyze the geographical distribution and evolution of FT-A1 (T or G) alleles. This study contributes to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of the four traits (TSPN, FSPN, SSPN and HD) and provides further insights into the genetic relationship between spikelet number traits and HD in wheat.