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Arabidopsis biomass accumulation -2

Complex traits like human disease, growth rate or crop yield are highly polygenic. Typically, few major and many minor QTL contribute to such traits. While progress has been made in identifying large-effect QTL, experimental constraints have limited knowledge of small-effect QTL.

Therefore, a 1 centiMorgan segment of the Arabidopsis genome was chosen without knowledge about its effect on plant growth rate. This segment was dissected in a series of crosses between near-isogenic Arabidopsis lines that harbored recombination breakpoints in this genome segment, and the progeny of these crosses was investigated for variation in biomass accumulation. Plant lines were selected such that progeny from each cross segregated for a very small fragment of this genome segment, while flanking genomic regions were identical.

Within 1 centiMorgan region, two small-effect growth rate QTL were detected, and one was identified as a serine-threonine protein kinase. Both QTL interacted epistatically with their genetic background. Futhermore, a signature of balancing selection was detected for the serine-threonine protein kinase gene. These results, if typical for the entire genome, suggest a highly polygenic, epistatic architecture of complex traits, with cryptic genetic variation maintained in part by balancing selection.

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Max Planck Society
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07745 Jena
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