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Genetica. 2001;112-113:59-69.

Epistasis, complex traits, and mapping genes.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


Using a three-locus model wherein two loci regulate a third, candidate locus, I examine physiological epistasis from the 'gene's eye view' of the regulated locus. I show that, depending upon genetic background at the regulatory loci, an allele at the candidate locus can be dominant, additive, recessive, neutral, over-dominant, or under-dominant in its effects on fitness. This kind of variation in allelic effect caused by variation in genetic background from population to population, from time to time in the same population, or sample to sample makes finding and mapping the genes underlying a complex phenotype difficult. The rate of evolution of such genes can also be slowed, especially in genetically subdivided metapopulations with migration. Nevertheless, understanding how variation in genetic background causes variation in allelic effects permits the genetic architecture of such complex traits to be dissected into the interacting component genes. While some backgrounds diminish allelic effects and make finding and mapping genes difficult, other backgrounds enhance allelic effects and facilitate gene mapping.

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