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Genetics. 2009 Nov;183(3):1153-64. doi: 10.1534/genetics.109.106591. Epub 2009 Sep 7.

Identification of a Cis-acting regulatory polymorphism in a Eucalypt COBRA-like gene affecting cellulose content.

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CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia.


Populations with low linkage disequilibrium (LD) offer unique opportunities to study functional variants influencing quantitative traits. We exploited the low LD in forest trees to identify functional polymorphisms in a Eucalyptus nitens COBRA-like gene (EniCOBL4A), whose Arabidopsis homolog has been implicated in cellulose deposition. Linkage analysis in a full-sib family revealed that EniCOBL4A is the most strongly associated marker in a quantitative trait locus (QTL) region for cellulose content. Analysis of LD by genotyping 11 common single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and a simple sequence repeat (SSR) in an association population revealed that LD declines within the length of the gene. Using association studies we fine mapped the effect of the gene to SNP7, a synonymous SNP in exon 5, which occurs between two small haplotype blocks. We observed patterns of allelic expression imbalance (AEI) and differential binding of nuclear proteins to the SNP7 region that indicate that SNP7 is a cis-acting regulatory polymorphism affecting allelic expression. We also observed AEI in SNP7 heterozygotes in a full-sib family that is linked to heritable allele-specific methylation near SNP7. This study demonstrates the potential to reveal functional polymorphisms underlying quantitative traits in low LD populations.

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