Leaf photosynthesis, an important determinant of yield potential in rice, can be estimated from measurements of chlorophyll content. We searched for quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for Soil and Plant Analyzer Development (SPAD) value, an index of leaf chlorophyll content, and assessed their association with leaf photosynthesis. QTL analysis derived from a cross between japonica cultivar Sasanishiki and high-yielding indica cultivar Habataki detected a QTL for SPAD value on chromosome 4. This QTL explained 31% of the total phenotypic variance, and the Habataki allele increased the SPAD value. Chromosomal segment substitution line (CSSL) with the corresponding segment from Habataki had a higher leaf photosynthetic rate and SPAD value than Sasanishiki, suggesting an association between SPAD value and leaf photosynthesis. The CSSL also had a lower specific leaf area (SLA) than Sasanishiki, reflecting its thicker leaves. Substitution mapping under Sasanishiki genetic background demonstrated that QTLs for SPAD value and SLA were co-localized in the 1,798-kb interval. The results suggest that the phenotypes for SPAD value and SLA are controlled by a single locus or two tightly linked loci, and may play an important role in increasing leaf photosynthesis by increasing chlorophyll content or leaf thickness, or both.
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