Selection of maize inbred lines and gene expression for resistance to ear rot.
In recent years, there has been a large incidence of fungi causing "ear rot" in maize in Brazil, the main fungus being Fusarium verticillioides. The most efficient and competitive alternative for control of this disease consists of using maize hybrids resistant to this pathogen. Thus, the aims of this study were to analyze the genetic variability of maize inbred lines in regard to resistance to ear rot to observe if there is a maternal effect to resistance to ear rot, to study genetic control of the traits evaluated in hybrids originating from inbred lines of the maize breeding program at the Agriculture Department of Universidade Federal de Lavras (Lavras, MG, Brazil), and characterize the gene expression pattern related to the plant defense mechanism against F. verticillioides. High genetic availability was observed for resistance to this disease among the inbred lines evaluated. Considering combined diallel analysis, it was observed that the mean square of general combining ability (GCA) was not significant for the characteristic under study. However, specific combining ability (SCA) was significant, which indicates the predominance of non-additive effects involved in control of the characteristic for the population evaluated. A maternal effect was not observed for the characteristic of ear rot resistance in this study. Inbred lines 22, 58, and 91 showed potential for use in breeding programs aiming at resistance to F. verticillioides. Only two genes, LOX8 and Hsp82, had a satisfactory result that was able to be related to a plant defense mechanism when there is ear rot infection, though expression of these genes was observed in only one susceptible genotype. Thus, the genes LOX8 and Hsp82 are potential molecular markers for selection of maize inbred lines resistant to F. verticillioides.