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Natural Variation of Plant Metabolism: Genetic Mechanisms, Interpretive Caveats, and Evolutionary and Mechanistic Insights.


Combining quantitative genetics studies with metabolomics/metabolic profiling platforms, genomics, and transcriptomics is creating significant progress in identifying the causal genes controlling natural variation in metabolite accumulations and profiles. In this review, we discuss key mechanistic and evolutionary insights that are arising from these studies. This includes the potential role of transport and other processes in leading to a separation of the site of mechanistic causation and metabolic consequence. A reilluminated observation is the potential for genomic variation in the organelle to alter phenotypic variation alone and in epistatic interaction with the nuclear genetic variation. These studies are also highlighting new aspects of metabolic pleiotropy both in terms of the breadth of loci altering metabolic variation as well as the potential for broader effects on plant defense regulation of the metabolic variation than has previously been predicted. We also illustrate caveats that can be overlooked when translating quantitative genetics descriptors such as heritability and per-locus r(2) to mechanistic or evolutionary interpretations.

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