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PLoS Genet. 2007 Feb 23;3(2):e31.

Genetic complexity and quantitative trait loci mapping of yeast morphological traits.

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  • 1Department of Integrated Biosciences, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, University of Tokyo, Kashiwa, Chiba, Japan.


Functional genomics relies on two essential parameters: the sensitivity of phenotypic measures and the power to detect genomic perturbations that cause phenotypic variations. In model organisms, two types of perturbations are widely used. Artificial mutations can be introduced in virtually any gene and allow the systematic analysis of gene function via mutants fitness. Alternatively, natural genetic variations can be associated to particular phenotypes via genetic mapping. However, the access to genome manipulation and breeding provided by model organisms is sometimes counterbalanced by phenotyping limitations. Here we investigated the natural genetic diversity of Saccharomyces cerevisiae cellular morphology using a very sensitive high-throughput imaging platform. We quantified 501 morphological parameters in over 50,000 yeast cells from a cross between two wild-type divergent backgrounds. Extensive morphological differences were found between these backgrounds. The genetic architecture of the traits was complex, with evidence of both epistasis and transgressive segregation. We mapped quantitative trait loci (QTL) for 67 traits and discovered 364 correlations between traits segregation and inheritance of gene expression levels. We validated one QTL by the replacement of a single base in the genome. This study illustrates the natural diversity and complexity of cellular traits among natural yeast strains and provides an ideal framework for a genetical genomics dissection of multiple traits. Our results did not overlap with results previously obtained from systematic deletion strains, showing that both approaches are necessary for the functional exploration of genomes.

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