Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
PLoS One. 2010 Jan 8;5(1):e8635. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0008635.

The quantitative genetics of phenotypic robustness.

Author information

  • 1Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA.


Phenotypic robustness, or canalization, has been extensively investigated both experimentally and theoretically. However, it remains unknown to what extent robustness varies between individuals, and whether factors buffering environmental variation also buffer genetic variation. Here we introduce a quantitative genetic approach to these issues, and apply this approach to data from three species. In mice, we find suggestive evidence that for hundreds of gene expression traits, robustness is polymorphic and can be genetically mapped to discrete genomic loci. Moreover, we find that the polymorphisms buffering genetic variation are distinct from those buffering environmental variation. In fact, these two classes have quite distinct mechanistic bases: environmental buffers of gene expression are predominantly sex-specific and trans-acting, whereas genetic buffers are not sex-specific and often cis-acting. Data from studies of morphological and life-history traits in plants and yeast support the distinction between polymorphisms buffering genetic and environmental variation, and further suggest that loci buffering different types of environmental variation do overlap with one another. These preliminary results suggest that naturally occurring polymorphisms affecting phenotypic robustness could be abundant, and that these polymorphisms may generally buffer either genetic or environmental variation, but not both.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Public Library of Science Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk