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PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e41524. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041524. Epub 2012 Jul 26.

Identification of plant quantitative trait loci modulating a rhizobacteria-aphid indirect effect.

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  • 1Faculty of Life Sciences, The University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom.


Plants simultaneously interact with a plethora of species both belowground and aboveground, which can result in indirect effects mediated by plants. Studies incorporating plant genetic variation indicate that indirect effects mediated by plants may be a significant factor influencing the ecology and evolution of species within a community. Here, we present findings of a Quantitative Trait Locus (QTL) mapping study, where we mapped a rhizobacteria-aphid indirect effect onto the barley genome. We measured the size of aphid populations on barley when the barley rhizosphere either was or was not supplemented with a rhizobacterial species. Using a QTL mapping subset, we located five regions of the barley genome associated with the rhizobacteria-aphid indirect effect. Rhizobacterial supplementation led to an increase in aphid population size (mapped to three barley QTL), or a decrease in aphid population size (mapped to two barley QTL). One QTL associated with plant resistance to aphids was affected by a significant QTL-by-environment interaction, because it was not expressed when rhizobacteria was supplemented. Our results indicated that rhizobacterial supplementation of barley roots led to either increased or reduced aphid population size depending on plant genotype at five barley QTL. This indicates that the direction of a rhizobacteria-aphid indirect effect could influence the selection pressure on plants, when considering species that affect plant fitness. Further research may build on the findings presented here, to identify genes within QTL regions that are involved in the indirect interaction.

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