A synthetic framework for modeling the genetic basis of phenotypic plasticity and its costs



  • The phenotype of an individual is controlled not only by its genes, but also by the environment in which it grows.
  • A growing body of evidence shows that the extent to which phenotypic changes are driven by the environment, known as phenotypic plasticity, is also under genetic control, but an overall picture of genetic variation for phenotypic plasticity remains elusive.
  • Here, we develop a model for mapping quantitative trait loci (QTLs) that regulate environment-induced plastic response. This model enables geneticists to test whether there exist actual QTLs that determine phenotypic plasticity and, if there are, further test how plasticity QTLs control the costs of plastic response by dissecting the genetic correlation of phenotypic plasticity and trait value.
  • The model was used to analyze real data for grain yield of winter wheat (Triticum aestivum), leading to the detection of pleiotropic QTLs and epistatic QTLs that affect phenotypic plasticity and its cost in this crop.