Mol Genet Genomics 2012 May 17;287(5):437-50. Epub 2012 Apr 17.
Department of Horticulture, Cornell University, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva, NY 14456, USA.
Tree architecture is an important, complex and dynamic trait affected by diverse genetic, ontogenetic and environmental factors. 'Wijcik McIntosh', a columnar (reduced branching) sport of 'McIntosh' and a valuable genetic resource, has been used intensively in apple-breeding programs for genetic improvement of tree architecture. The columnar growth habit is primarily controlled by the dominant allele of gene Co (columnar) on linkage group-10. But the Co locus is not well mapped and the Co gene remains unknown. To precisely map the Co locus and to identify candidate genes of Co, a sequence-based approach using both peach and apple genomes was used to develop new markers linked more tightly to Co. Five new simple sequence repeats markers were developed (C1753-3520, C18470-25831, C6536-31519, C7223-38004 and C7629-22009). The first four markers were obtained from apple genomic sequences on chromosome-10, whereas the last (C7629-22009) was from an unanchored apple contig that contains an apple expressed sequence tag CV082943, which was identified through synteny analysis between the peach and apple genomes. Genetic mapping of these five markers in four F(1) populations of 528 genotypes and 290 diverse columnar selections/cultivars (818 genotypes in total) delimited the Co locus in a genetic interval with 0.37 % recombination between markers C1753-3520 and C7629-22009. Marker C18470-25831 co-segregates with Co in the 818 genotypes studied. The Co region is estimated to be 193 kb and contains 26 predicted gene in the 'Golden Delicious' genome. Among the 26 genes, three are putative LATERAL ORGAN BOUNDARIES (LOB) DOMAIN (LBD) containing transcription factor genes known of essential roles in plant lateral organ development, and are therefore considered as strong candidates of Co, designated MdLBD1, MdLBD2, and MdLBD3. Although more comprehensive studies are required to confirm the function of MdLBD1-3, the present work represents an important step forward to better understand the genetic and molecular control of tree architecture in apple.