Abstract: Teosinte (Zea mays ssp. parviglumis) is the wild ancestor of modern maize (Zea mays ssp. mays). Teosinte contains greater genetic diversity compared to maize inbreds and landraces, but its use is limited by insufficient genetic resources to evaluate its value. A population of teosinte near isogenic lines (teosinte NILs) was previously developed to broaden the resources for genetic diversity of maize, and to discover novel alleles for agronomic and domestication traits. A range of strong additive allelic effects for kernel starch, protein and oil content were identified relative to the B73 allele. Similarly, a new genetic resource, the Teosinte Synthetic (Teo-Syn), was developed by our lab by randomly mating backcrossed (BC1) progeny of 11 Zea mays ssp. parviglumis accessions in the B73 background, yielding a population with an expected genetic ratio of ~25% teosinte and ~75% B73. We tested for bi-locus additive × additive pairwise interactions epistatic interactions for various agronomic and domestication traits. Our results strongly support our hypothesis that teosinte harbors stronger alleles for kernel composition traits than maize, and can be exploited for the improvement of kernel composition traits in modern maize germplasm. We also elucidated the underlying genetic architecture of several agronomic and domestication traits, which revealed several genomic regions in complex networks of interacting nodes suggesting that epistasis is a significant determinant of phenotypic variance in the Teosinte Synthetic population.

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