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Theor Appl Genet. 2010 Nov;121(8):1455-64. doi: 10.1007/s00122-010-1401-y. Epub 2010 Jul 9.

Detection of epistatic interactions between exotic alleles introgressed from wild barley (H. vulgare ssp. spontaneum).

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Plant Developmental Biology, Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Carl-von-Linné-Weg 10, 50829, Cologne, Germany.


The expression of a quantitative phenotype can be controlled through genotype, environment and genotype by environment interaction effects. Further, genotype effects can be attributed to major genes, quantitative trait loci (QTL) and gene by gene interactions, which are also termed epistatic interactions. The present study demonstrates that two-way epistatic interactions can play an important role for the expression of domestication-related traits like heading date, plant height and yield. In the BC(2)DH population S42, carrying wild barley introgressions in the genetic background of the spring barley cultivar Scarlett, 13, 8 and 12 marker by marker interaction effects could be detected for the traits heading date, plant height and yield, respectively. Significant allelic combinations at interacting loci coincided for heading date, plant height and yield suggesting the presence of pleiotropic effects rather than several linked QTL. The mode of epistasis observed was primarily characterised by either (1) compensatory effects, where allelic combinations from the same genotype buffered the phenotype, or (2) augmented effects, where only the combination of the exotic allele at both interacting loci caused an altered phenotype. The present study shows that estimates of main effects of QTL can be confounded by interactions with background loci, suggesting that the identification of epistatic effects is important for gene cloning and marker-assisted selection. Furthermore, interaction effects between loci and putative candidate genes detected in the present study reveal potential functional relationships, which can be used to further elucidate gene networks in barley.

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