Plant symbiosis with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi provides many benefits for plants, including increased nutrient uptake, drought tolerance, and belowground pathogen resistance. In order to have a better understanding of the genetic architecture of mycorrhizal symbiosis, we conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) by phenotyping a diversity panel of cultivated sunflower (Helianthus annuus) for root colonization under inoculation with the AM fungus Rhizophagus intraradices. This mapping panel consists of 261 inbred lines that capture approximately 90% of the genetic diversity present in the cultivated sunflower germplasm. Using a mixed linear model approach with a high-density genetic map, we determined regions of the genome that are likely associated with AM colonization in sunflower. Additionally, we used a ‘core 12’ set of twelve diverse lines (representing approximately 50% of the genetic diversity in the cultivated germplasm) to assess the effect that inoculation with AM fungi has on dried shoot biomass and macronutrient uptake. Colonization rate among lines in the mapping panel ranged from 0 to 70% and was not correlated with mycorrhizal growth response, shoot P response, or shoot K response among the core 12 lines. Association mapping yielded three SNPs that were significantly associated with AM colonization rate. These SNPs explained 19.0%, 14.4%, and 27.9% of the variance in three different metrics used to measure the degree of root colonization. Three genes of interest identified from the significant regions that contained these SNPs are potentially related to plant defense. Overall, our data suggests that candidate genes involved in plant defense may affect AM colonization rates within cultivated sunflower, and that these genes have a large effect size.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair

Mason, Chase


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program




Access Status

Campus Access

Length of Campus-only Access

1 year

Release Date