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Gene. 2006 Feb 1;366(2):343-51. Epub 2006 Jan 20.

Genome-wide scan reveals that genetic variation for transcriptional plasticity in yeast is biased towards multi-copy and dispensable genes.

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Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA.


One of the most important aspects of the evolution of development and physiology is the interplay between gene expression and the environment, by which traits become altered in response to environmental triggers. This feature is known as phenotypic plasticity. When different genotypes show different levels of plasticity for a trait, then they show genotype-by-environment interaction, or GEI. It is now clear that gene expression plays an important role in organismic-level phenotypic plasticity, but we know very little about whether gene expression itself is subject to genetic variation for phenotypic plasticity (GEI). Given that gene regulation is likely to have evolved to respond to environmental changes, it is of central importance to understand how environmental and genetic variation interact to produce variation in gene expression. Here we investigate genetic variation for phenotypic plasticity in the yeast transcriptome for the whole genome. Six strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae were grown in four different environments representing a continuum of rich and poor natural conditions. Using DNA-microarray data and an ANOVA analysis with a stringent criterion of significance, we found significant genetic variation for transcriptional plasticity (GEI) among strains for approximately 5% of the genes in the genome. There are about twice as many genes that show genetic variation for phenotypic plasticity as show genetic variation in transcription level independent of the environment. We also found that genes with genetic variation for plasticity were less likely to be essential and were significantly biased towards genes that have paralogs.

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