Polymorphic simple sequence repeat (SSR) loci within cellulose synthase (PtoCesA) genes are associated with growth and wood properties in Populus tomentosa
* Chinese white poplar (Populus tomentosa), an important commercial tree species for timber and pulp production in northern China, has been used to examine the individual genes and allelic diversity responsible for complex traits controlling growth and lignocellulosic biosynthesis. Taking advantage of the low degree of linkage disequilibrium (LD) within P. tomentosa association populations, we examined associations between 15 cellulose synthase (PtoCesA) genes and traits including growth and wood properties. * Thirty-six novel simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers within PtoCesA genes were detected by re-sequencing and genotyped in an association population (460 individuals). Single-marker and haplotype-based LD approaches were used to identify significant marker–trait associations. Family-based linkage studies and real-time PCR testing were conducted to validate the functional significance of SSR variation. * Fifteen single-marker associations from seven PtoCesA genes and nine haplotype-based associations within six genes were identified in the association population (false discovery rate Q < 0.05). Next, five SSR marker–trait associations (Q < 0.05) from four PtoCesA genes were successfully validated in a linkage mapping population (1200 individuals). * The results imply a functional role for these genes in mediating wood properties, demonstrating the potential of combining single-marker and haplotype-based LD approaches to detect functional allelic variation underlying quantitative traits in a low-LD population.