Genetic structure analysis and identifying key founder inbred lines in diverse elite sub-tropical maize inbred lines
Understanding the genetic relationships between the key founder inbred lines and derived inbred lines could provide insight into the breeding history and the structure of genetic diversity of the available elite inbred lines with desirable target traits. The maize improvement program at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) analyzed the pedigree information of 623 sub-tropical maize inbred lines generated at the IITA maize breeding program to identify the key founder inbred lines. We also used 5032 SNP markers to assess the genetic similarities of the founder inbred lines with their progenies subsequently developed for specific target traits. The results of pedigree analysis and SNP markers-based similarity scores identified 20 key founder inbred lines with significant contributions to the development of drought tolerant, early maturing, productive, Striga resistant, provitamin A enriched, and quality protein maize inbred lines. In our breeding program, line TZMi501 belonging to a flint heterotic group (HGA), and TZMi407-S and TZMi214, representing the dent heterotic group (HGB), were identified as the most useful founder inbred lines. The 623 inbred lines were consistently separated into four clusters based on Ward’s hierarchical clustering, structure, and principal component analyses, with the 20 founder inbred lines spread into all clusters. The founder inbred lines were more genetically related to the productive inbred lines but showed genetic divergence from the provitamin A enriched inbred lines. These results provide a better understanding of the breeding history of the sub-tropical maize inbred lines to facilitate parental selection aligned to existing heterotic groups for use in breeding programs targeting the improvement of essential traits in maize.