Considerable epidemiological evidence exists on the association between consumption of antioxidant-rich vegetables and incidence of chronic diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. Broccoli (Brassica oleracea L. sp. italica) florets are relatively abundant sources of antioxidants, and potentially amenable to genetic manipulation to enhance this vegetable's health-promoting properties. This investigation focuses on the identification of chromosomal segments in the nuclear genome of broccoli associated with antioxidant carotenoid and tocopherol variability. A broccoli F2:3 population consisting of 163 families derived from a cross between two parents (VI-158 and BNC) and previously mapped with 62 polymorphic SSR and SRAP marker loci was evaluated for carotenoid and tocopherol concentration in floret tissue over two growing seasons. Significant differences were observed among F2:3 family means for concentrations of lutein (10-fold difference between the lowest and highest family), beta-carotene 17-fold), alpha-tocopherol (8-fold) and gamma-tocopherol (6-fold). On a concentration basis, beta-carotene, lutein, alpha-tocopherol, and gamma-tocopherol were the most abundant antioxidant forms in broccoli. Heritability estimates of primary phytochemicals ranged from 0.35 to 0.38, 0.40, and 0.44 for beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, and lutein, respectively. Composite interval mapping (CIM) identified two quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with carotenoid variability on two linkage groups and five QTL associated with tocopherol variability on four linkage groups. The QTL identified in this study have potential for use in marker-assisted crop improvement programs to develop elite germplasm designed to promote health among the consuming public.
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