An inbred backcross (IBC) population derived from Lycopersicon hirsutum LA407 and L. esculentum was evaluated in replicated field trials to assess its potential for the improvement of red-fruited tomatoes. Significant phenotypic variation among genotypes was detected for the hue (tint), L (darkness), and chroma (saturation) of color. Significant effects due to environment and genotype × environment interactions also were observed. One superior inbred backcross line from this population, IBL 2349, was used to develop an F2 population and to explore the genetic basis of color. Two independent L. esculentum quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with improved color were identified based on linkage to markers mapping to chromosome 4 and chromosome 11. Epistatic interactions were identified between the two L. esculentum loci. Unexpected epistatic interactions also were identified between L. esculentum loci and an LA407 introgression on chromosome 7 present within IBL 2349. The two L. esculentum QTL and the epistatic interactions were confirmed in replicated trials with F3 and F4 families. The loci identified in this study and their epistatic interactions may provide additional tools for the improvement of red-fruited tomatoes in breeding programs.
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