Epistatic pleiotropy and the genetic architecture of covariation within early and late-developing skull trait complexes in mice

Jason B. Wolf, Larry J. Leamy, Eric J. Routman, James M. Cheverud

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    The role of epistasis as a source of trait variation is well established, but its role as a source of covariation among traits (i.e., as a source of "epistatic pleiotropy") is rarely considered. In this study we examine the relative importance of epistatic pleiotropy in producing covariation within early and late-developing skull trait complexes in a population of mice derived from an intercross of the Large and Small inbred strains. Significant epistasis was found for several pairwise combinations of the 21 quantitative trait loci (QTL) affecting early developing traits and among the 20 QTL affecting late-developing traits. The majority of the epistatic effects were restricted to single traits but epistatic pleiotropy still contributed significantly to covariances. Because of their proportionally larger effects on variances than on covariances, epistatic effects tended to reduce within-group correlations of traits and reduce their overall degree of integration. The expected contributions of single-locus and two-locus epistatic pleiotropic QTL effects to the genetic covariance between traits were analyzed using a two-locus population genetic model. The model demonstrates that, for single-locus or epistatic pleiotropy to contribute to trait covariances in the study population, both traits must show the same pattern of single-locus or epistatic effects. As a result, a large number of the cases where loci show pleiotropic effects do not contribute to the covariance between traits in this population because the loci show a different pattern of effect on the different traits. In general, covariance patterns produced by single-locus and epistatic pleiotropy predicted by the model agreed well with actual values calculated from the QTL analysis. Nearly all single-locus and epistatic pleiotropic effects contributed positive components to covariances between traits, suggesting that genetic integration in the skull is achieved by a complex combination of pleiotropic effects. Copyright © 2005 by the Genetics Society of America.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)683-694
    Number of pages11
    JournalGenetics
    Volume171
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2005

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