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PLoS Genet. 2010 Sep 30;6(9):e1001144. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1001144.

Gene-environment interactions at nucleotide resolution.

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Department of Genetics, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America.


Interactions among genes and the environment are a common source of phenotypic variation. To characterize the interplay between genetics and the environment at single nucleotide resolution, we quantified the genetic and environmental interactions of four quantitative trait nucleotides (QTN) that govern yeast sporulation efficiency. We first constructed a panel of strains that together carry all 32 possible combinations of the 4 QTN genotypes in 2 distinct genetic backgrounds. We then measured the sporulation efficiencies of these 32 strains across 8 controlled environments. This dataset shows that variation in sporulation efficiency is shaped largely by genetic and environmental interactions. We find clear examples of QTN:environment, QTN: background, and environment:background interactions. However, we find no QTN:QTN interactions that occur consistently across the entire dataset. Instead, interactions between QTN only occur under specific combinations of environment and genetic background. Thus, what might appear to be a QTN:QTN interaction in one background and environment becomes a more complex QTN:QTN:environment:background interaction when we consider the entire dataset as a whole. As a result, the phenotypic impact of a set of QTN alleles cannot be predicted from genotype alone. Our results instead demonstrate that the effects of QTN and their interactions are inextricably linked both to genetic background and to environmental variation.

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