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Multiple Loci Control Variation in Plasticity to Foliar Shade Throughout Development in Arabidopsis thaliana.


The shade avoidance response is a set of developmental changes exhibited by plants to avoid shading by competitors, and is an important model of adaptive plant plasticity. While the mechanisms of sensing shading by other plants are well-known and appear conserved across plants, less is known about the developmental mechanisms that result in the diverse array of morphological and phenological responses to shading. This is particularly true for traits that appear later in plant development. Here we use a nested association mapping (NAM) population of Arabidopsis thaliana to decipher the genetic architecture of the shade avoidance response in late-vegetative and reproductive plants. We focused on four traits: bolting time, rosette size, inflorescence growth rate, and inflorescence size, found plasticity in each trait in response to shade, and detected 17 total QTL; at least one of which is a novel locus not previously identified for shade responses in Arabidopsis Using path analysis, we dissected each colocalizing QTL into direct effects on each trait and indirect effects transmitted through direct effects on earlier developmental traits. Doing this separately for each of the seven NAM populations in each environment, we discovered considerable heterogeneity among the QTL effects across populations, suggesting allelic series at multiple QTL or interactions between QTL and the genetic background or the environment. Our results provide insight into the development and variation in shade avoidance responses in Arabidopsis, and emphasize the value of directly modeling the relationships among traits when studying the genetics of complex developmental syndromes.

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