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Genetics. 1998 Apr;148(4):1885-91.

Epistatic interactions between smell-impaired loci in Drosophila melanogaster.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh 27695-7614, USA.


Odor-guided behavior is a polygenic trait determined by the concerted expression of multiple loci. Previously, P-element mutagenesis was used to identify single P[lArB] insertions, in a common isogenic background, with homozygous effects on olfactory behavior. Here, we have crossed 12 lines with these smell impaired (smi) mutations in a half-diallel design (excluding homozygous parental genotypes and reciprocal crosses) to produce all possible 66 doubly heterozygous hybrids with P[lArB] insertions at two distinct locations. The olfactory behavior of the transheterozygous progeny was measured using an assay that quantified the avoidance response to the repellent odorant benzaldehyde. There was significant variation in general combining abilities of avoidance scores among the smi mutants, indicating variation in heterozygous effects. Further, there was significant variation among specific combining abilities of each cross, indicating dependencies of heterozygous effects on the smi locus genotypes, i.e., epistasis. Significant epistatic interactions were identified for nine transheterozygote genotypes, involving 10 of the 12 smi loci. Eight of these loci form an interacting ensemble of genes that modulate expression of the behavioral phenotype. These observations illustrate the power of quantitative genetic analyses to detect subtle phenotypic effects and point to an extensive network of epistatic interactions among genes in the olfactory subgenome.

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