Combined quantitative trait loci (QTL) and expression-QTL (eQTL) mapping analysis was performed to identify genetic factors affecting melon (Cucumis melo) fruit quality, by linking genotypic, metabolic and transcriptomic data from a melon recombinant inbred line (RIL) population. RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) of fruit from 96 RILs yielded a highly saturated collection of > 58 000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms, identifying 6636 recombination events that separated the genome into 3663 genomic bins. Bin-based QTL analysis of 79 RILs and 129 fruit-quality traits affecting taste, aroma and color resulted in the mapping of 241 QTL. Thiol acyltransferase (CmThAT1) gene was identified within the QTL interval of its product, S-methyl-thioacetate, a key component of melon fruit aroma. Metabolic activity of CmThAT1-encoded protein was validated in bacteria and in vitro. QTL analysis of flesh color intensity identified a candidate white-flesh gene (CmPPR1), one of two major loci determining fruit flesh color in melon. CmPPR1 encodes a member of the pentatricopeptide protein family, involved in processing of RNA in plastids, where carotenoid and chlorophyll pigments accumulate. Network analysis of > 12 000 eQTL mapped for > 8000 differentially expressed fruit genes supported the role of CmPPR1 in determining the expression level of plastid targeted genes. We highlight the potential of RNA-Seq-based QTL analysis of small to moderate size, advanced RIL populations for precise marker-assisted breeding and gene discovery. We provide the following resources: a RIL population genotyped with a unique set of SNP markers, confined genomic segments that harbor QTL governing 129 traits and a saturated set of melon eQTLs.
- Cucumis melo
- network analysis
- next-generation sequencing
- pentatricopeptide repeat-containing protein
- thiol acyltransferase