Joseph B, Corwin JA, Züst T, Li B, Iravani M, Schaepman-Strub G, Turnbull LA, Kliebenstein DJ (2013) Hierarchical nuclear and cytoplasmic genetic architectures for plant growth and defense within Arabidopsis. Plant Cell 25: 1929–1945.
To understand how genetic architecture translates between phenotypic levels, we mapped the genetic architecture of growth and defense within the Arabidopsis thaliana Kas × Tsu recombinant inbred line population. We measured plant growth using traditional size measurements and size-corrected growth rates. This population contains genetic variation in both the nuclear and cytoplasmic genomes, allowing us to separate their contributions. The cytoplasmic genome regulated a significant variance in growth but not defense, which was due to cytonuclear epistasis. Furthermore, growth adhered to an infinitesimal model of genetic architecture, while defense metabolism was more of a moderate-effect model. We found a lack of concordance between quantitative trait loci (QTL) regulating defense and those regulating growth. Given the published evidence proving the link between glucosinolates and growth, this is likely a false negative result caused by the limited population size. This size limitation creates an inability to test the entire potential genetic landscape possible between these two parents. We uncovered a significant effect of glucosinolates on growth once we accounted for allelic differences in growth QTLs. Therefore, other growth QTLs can mask the effects of defense upon growth. Investigating direct links across phenotypic hierarchies is fraught with difficulty; we identify issues complicating this analysis.