Towards the genetic architecture of seed lipid biosynthesis and accumulation in Arabidopsis thaliana

We report the quantitative genetic analysis of seed oil quality and quantity in six Arabidopsis thaliana recombinant inbred populations, in which the parent accessions were from diverse geographical origins, and were selected on the basis of variation for seed oil content and lipid composition. Although most of the biochemical steps involved in lipid biosynthesis are known and the key genes have been identified, the regulation of the processes that results in the final oil composition and total amount is not understood. By using physically anchored markers it was possible to compare results across populations. A total of 219 quantitative trait loci (QTLs) were identified, of which 81 were significant at P<0.001. Some of these colocalise with QTLs identified previously, but many novel QTLs were also identified. The results highlight the importance of studying traits in multiple populations, which will lead to a better understanding of the contribution that natural variation makes to the genetic architecture of a phenotype.

C M O’Neill1, C Morgan1, C Hattori1, M Brennan2, U Rosas3, H Tschoep4, P X Deng1, D Baker1, R Wells1 and I Bancroft1

  1. 1Department of Crop Genetics, John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich, UK
  2. 2Monsanto Company, St Louis, MO, USA
  3. 3Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, Department of Biology, New York University, New York, NY, USA
  4. 4SESVANDERHAVE NV/SA, Tienen, Belgium

Heredity (2012) 108, 115–123 Full paper here.

Fusion–fission experiments in Aphidius: evolutionary split without isolation in response to environmental bimodality

Studying host-based divergence naturally maintained by a balance between selection and gene flow can provide valuable insights into genetic underpinnings of host adaptation and ecological speciation in parasites. Selection-gene flow balance is often postulated in sympatric host races, but direct experimental evidence is scarce. In this study, we present such evidence obtained in host races of Aphidius ervi, an important hymenopteran agent of biological control of aphids in agriculture, using a novel fusion–fission method of gene flow perturbation. In our study, between-race genetic divergence was obliterated by means of advanced hybridisation, followed by a multi-generation exposure of the resulting genetically uniform hybrid swarm to a two-host environment. This fusion–fission procedure was implemented under two contrasting regimes of between-host gene flow in two replicated experiments involving different racial pairs. Host-based genetic fission in response to environmental bimodality occurred in both experiments in as little as six generations of divergent adaptation despite continuous gene flow. We demonstrate that fission recovery of host-based divergence evolved faster and hybridisation-induced linkage disequilibrium decayed slower under restricted (6.7%) compared with unrestricted gene flow, directly pointing at a balance between gene flow and divergent selection. We also show, in four separate tests, that random drift had no or little role in the observed genetic split. Rates and patterns of fission divergence differed between racial pairs. Comparative linkage analysis of these differences is currently under way to test for the role of genomic architecture of adaptation in ecology-driven divergent evolution.

I Emelianov1, A Hernandes-Lopez1, M Torrence1 and N Watts1

1Plant and Invertebrate Ecology, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden Herts, UK

Correspondence: Dr I Emelianov, Plant and Invertebrate Ecology, Rothamsted Research, West Common, Harpenden Herts, AL5 2JQ, UK.

Heredity (2011) 106, 798–807 Full paper here.

Kin assortment in juvenile shoals in wild guppy populations

Grouping provides many potential benefits to individuals in terms of foraging and anti-predator protection. However, it has been suggested that individuals could gain additional benefits in terms of indirect fitness by grouping with kin. Surprisingly, the genetic composition of wild fish shoals and the importance of kin-associated shoaling remain poorly understood. The Trinidadian guppy (Poecilia reticulata) has life history traits that might promote kin structure of shoals such as internal fertilisation and small brood size in contrast to many other fish species. Even though previous studies did not find any indication of kin structure in shoals of adult guppies, it is possible that related juveniles remain together in shoals, partly because of lower mobility and because the advantages of kin association may change with age. Using 10 microsatellite markers, we conducted a genetic analysis on 40 shoals from four populations. Pair-wise relatedness was inferred using a modified version of the software package COLONY and permutation tests were conducted to test the hypothesis that kin occur together in juvenile shoals more often than expected by chance. The frequency of sib dyads among juveniles within shoals was significantly larger than that between shoals in two high predation populations but not in two low predation populations. This finding contributes to the understanding of factors underlying shoal composition and highlights the potential of recent methodological advances for detecting such relationships.

C Piyapong1,2, R K Butlin3, J J Faria2, K J Scruton2, J Wang4 and J Krause2,5

  1. 1Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Mahasarakham University, Mahasarakham, Thailand
  2. 2Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  3. 3Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  4. 4Institute of Zoology, Regent’s Park, London, UK
  5. 5Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), Department of Biology and Ecology of Fishes, Müggelseedamm 310, Berlin, Germany

Correspondence: Dr C Piyapong, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Mahasarakham University, Khamrieng Campus, Mahasarakham 44150, Thailand. E-mail

Heredity (2011) 106, 749–756 Full paper here.