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Genetics. 2000 Jun;155(2):969-80.

Gene regulatory networks generating the phenomena of additivity, dominance and epistasis.

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  • 1Department of Animal Science, Agricultural University of Norway, Aas. stig.omholt@ihf.nlh.no


We show how the phenomena of genetic dominance, overdominance, additivity, and epistasis are generic features of simple diploid gene regulatory networks. These regulatory network models are together sufficiently complex to catch most of the suggested molecular mechanisms responsible for generating dominant mutations. These include reduced gene dosage, expression or protein activity (haploinsufficiency), increased gene dosage, ectopic or temporarily altered mRNA expression, increased or constitutive protein activity, and dominant negative effects. As classical genetics regards the phenomenon of dominance to be generated by intralocus interactions, we have studied two one-locus models, one with a negative autoregulatory feedback loop, and one with a positive autoregulatory feedback loop. To include the phenomena of epistasis and downstream regulatory effects, a model of a three-locus signal transduction network is also analyzed. It is found that genetic dominance as well as overdominance may be an intra- as well as interlocus interaction phenomenon. In the latter case the dominance phenomenon is intimately connected to either feedback-mediated epistasis or downstream-mediated epistasis. It appears that in the intra- as well as the interlocus case there is considerable room for additive gene action, which may explain to some degree the predictive power of quantitative genetic theory, with its emphasis on this type of gene action. Furthermore, the results illuminate and reconcile the prevailing explanations of heterosis, and they support the old conjecture that the phenomenon of dominance may have an evolutionary explanation related to life history strategy.

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