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Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2017 Dec;47:48-53. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2017.08.009. Epub 2017 Sep 12.

Genetic backgrounds and hidden trait complexity in natural populations.

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Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, GMGM UMR 7156, F-67000 Strasbourg, France.
Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, GMGM UMR 7156, F-67000 Strasbourg, France. Electronic address:


Dissecting the genetic basis of natural phenotypic variation is a major goal in biology. We know that most traits are strongly heritable. However, their genetic architecture is a long-standing question, which is unfortunately confounded by the lack of complete knowledge of the genetic components as well as their phenotypic effect in a specific genetic background. Many genetic variants are known to affect phenotypes but the same functional variant can have a different effect on the phenotype in different individuals of the same species. Understanding the impact of genetic background on the expressivity of a given phenotype is essential because this effect complicates our ability to predict phenotype from genotype. Here, we briefly review recent progress on the exploration of the effect of genetic background and we discuss how a deeper characterization of the inheritance, expressivity and genetic interactions hidden behind the phenotypic landscape of natural variation could provide a better understanding of the relationship between genotype and phenotype.

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