Mapping of fiber quality QTLs reveals useful variation and footprints of cotton domestication using introgression lines.
Fiber quality improvement is a driving force for further cotton domestication and breeding. Here, QTLs for fiber quality were mapped in 115 introgression lines (ILs) first developed from two intraspecific populations of cultivated and feral cotton landraces. A total of 60 QTLs were found, which explained 2.03-16.85% of the phenotypic variance found in fiber quality traits. A total of 36 markers were associated with five fiber traits, 33 of which were found to be associated with QTLs in multiple environments. In addition, nine pairs of common QTLs were identified; namely, one pair of QTLs for fiber elongation, three pairs for fiber length, three pairs for fiber strength and two pairs for micronaire (qMICs). All common QTLs had additive effects in the same direction in both IL populations. We also found five QTL clusters, allowing cotton breeders to focus their efforts on regions of QTLs with the highest percentages of phenotypic variance. Our results also reveal footprints of domestication; for example, fourteen QTLs with positive effects were found to have remained in modern cultivars during domestication, and two negative qMICs that had never been reported before were found, suggesting that the qMICs regions may be eliminated during artificial selection.