Tea (Camellia sinensis) contains polyphenols and caffeine which have been found to be of popular interest in tea quality. Tea production relies on well-distributed rainfall which influence tea quality. Phenotypic data for two segregating tea populations TRFK St 504 and TRFK St 524 were collected and used to identify the quantitative trait loci (QTL) influencing tea biochemical and drought stress traits based on a consensus genetic map constructed using the DArTseq platform. The populations comprised 261 F1 clonal progeny. The map consisted of 15 linkage groups which corresponds to chromosome haploid number of tea plant (2n = 2× = 30) and spanned 1260.1 cM with a mean interval of 1.1 cM between markers. A total of 16 phenotypic traits were assessed in the two populations. Both interval and multiple QTL mapping revealed a total of 47 putative QTL in the 15 LGs associated with tea quality and percent relative water content at a significant genome-wide threshold of 5%. In total, six caffeine QTL, 25 catechins QTL, three theaflavins QTL, nine QTL for tea taster score, and three QTL for percent relative water contents were detected. Out of these 47 QTL, 19 QTL were identified for ten traits in three main regions on LG01, LG02, LG04, LG12, LG13, and LG14. The QTL associated with caffeine, individual catechins, and theaflavins were clustered mostly in LG02 and LG04 but in different regions on the map. The explained variance by each QTL in the population ranged from 5.5 to 56.6%, with an average of 9.9%. Identification of QTL that are tightly linked to markers associated with black tea quality coupled with UPLC assay may greatly accelerate development of novel tea cultivars owing to its amenability at seedling stage. In addition, validated molecular markers will contribute greatly to adoption of marker-assisted selection (MAS) for drought tolerance and tea quality improvement.
The DArT sequences have been submitted to NCBI (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/). BioProject PRJNA398959, Supplementary Table 2.