Combinatorial insect attacks on maize leaves, stems, and kernels cause significant yield losses and mycotoxin contaminations. Several small effect quantitative trait loci (QTL) control maize resistance to stem borers and storage pests and are correlated with secondary metabolites. However, efficient use of QTL in molecular breeding requires a synthesis of the available resistance information. In this study, separate meta-analyses of QTL of maize response to stem borers and storage pests feeding on leaves, stems, and kernels along with maize cell wall constituents discovered in these tissues generated 24 leaf (LIR), 42 stem (SIR), and 20 kernel (KIR) insect resistance meta-QTL (MQTL) of a diverse genetic and geographical background. Most of these MQTL involved resistance to several insect species, therefore, generating a significant interest for multiple-insect resistance breeding. Some of the LIR MQTL such as LIR4, 17, and 22 involve resistance to European corn borer, sugarcane borer, and southwestern corn borer. Eleven out of the 42 SIR MQTL related to resistance to European corn borer and Mediterranean corn borer. There KIR MQTL, KIR3, 15, and 16 combined resistance to kernel damage by the maize weevil and the Mediterranean corn borer and could be used in breeding to reduce insect-related post-harvest grain yield loss and field to storage mycotoxin contamination. This meta-analysis corroborates the significant role played by cell wall constituents in maize resistance to insect since the majority of the MQTL contain QTL for members of the hydroxycinnamates group such as p-coumaric acid, ferulic acid, and other diferulates and derivates, and fiber components such as acid detergent fiber, neutral detergent fiber, and lignin. Stem insect resistance MQTL display several co-localization between fiber and hydroxycinnamate components corroborating the hypothesis of cross-linking between these components that provide mechanical resistance to insect attacks. Our results highlight the existence of combined-insect resistance genomic regions in maize and set the basis of multiple-pests resistance breeding.
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