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PLoS Genet. 2007 Sep;3(9):1687-701. Epub 2007 Aug 1.

Linking metabolic QTLs with network and cis-eQTLs controlling biosynthetic pathways.

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  • 1Department of Plant Sciences, University of California Davis, Davis, California, USA.


Phenotypic variation between individuals of a species is often under quantitative genetic control. Genomic analysis of gene expression polymorphisms between individuals is rapidly gaining popularity as a way to query the underlying mechanistic causes of variation between individuals. However, there is little direct evidence of a linkage between global gene expression polymorphisms and phenotypic consequences. In this report, we have mapped quantitative trait loci (QTLs)-controlling glucosinolate content in a population of 403 Arabidopsis Bay x Sha recombinant inbred lines, 211 of which were previously used to identify expression QTLs controlling the transcript levels of biosynthetic genes. In a comparative study, we have directly tested two plant biosynthetic pathways for association between polymorphisms controlling biosynthetic gene transcripts and the resulting metabolites within the Arabidopsis Bay x Sha recombinant inbred line population. In this analysis, all loci controlling expression variation also affected the accumulation of the resulting metabolites. In addition, epistasis was detected more frequently for metabolic traits compared to transcript traits, even when both traits showed similar distributions. An analysis of candidate genes for QTL-controlling networks of transcripts and metabolites suggested that the controlling factors are a mix of enzymes and regulatory factors. This analysis showed that regulatory connections can feedback from metabolism to transcripts. Surprisingly, the most likely major regulator of both transcript level for nearly the entire pathway and aliphatic glucosinolate accumulation is variation in the last enzyme in the biosynthetic pathway, AOP2. This suggests that natural variation in transcripts may significantly impact phenotypic variation, but that natural variation in metabolites or their enzymatic loci can feed back to affect the transcripts.

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