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Trends Plant Sci. 2008 Feb;13(2):72-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2007.11.008. Epub 2008 Feb 11.

Identifying the molecular basis of QTLs: eQTLs add a new dimension.

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Department of Plant Biology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Natural genetic variation within plant species is at the core of plant science ranging from agriculture to evolution. Whereas much progress has been made in mapping quantitative trait loci (QTLs) controlling this natural variation, the elucidation of the underlying molecular mechanisms has remained a bottleneck. Recent systems biology tools have significantly shortened the time required to proceed from a mapped locus to testing of candidate genes. These tools enable research on natural variation to move from simple reductionistic studies focused on individual genes to integrative studies connecting molecular variation at multiple loci with physiological consequences. This review focuses on recent examples that demonstrate how expression QTL data can be used for gene discovery and exploited to untangle complex regulatory networks.

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