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Genetics. Dec 1999; 153(4): 2001–2012.
PMCID: PMC1460848

Fluxes and metabolic pools as model traits for quantitative genetics. I. The L-shaped distribution of gene effects.


The fluxes through metabolic pathways can be considered as model quantitative traits, whose QTL are the polymorphic loci controlling the activity or quantity of the enzymes. Relying on metabolic control theory, we investigated the relationships between the variations of enzyme activity along metabolic pathways and the variations of the flux in a population with biallelic QTL. Two kinds of variations were taken into account, the variation of the average enzyme activity across the loci, and the variation of the activity of each enzyme of the pathway among the individuals of the population. We proposed analytical approximations for the flux mean and variance in the population as well as for the additive and dominance variances of the individual QTL. Monte Carlo simulations based on these approximations showed that an L-shaped distribution of the contributions of individual QTL to the flux variance (R(2)) is consistently expected in an F(2) progeny. This result could partly account for the classically observed L-shaped distribution of QTL effects for quantitative traits. The high correlation we found between R(2) value and flux control coefficients variance suggests that such a distribution is an intrinsic property of metabolic pathways due to the summation property of control coefficients.

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