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Genome Biology and Evolution






Divergence of serially homologous elements of organisms is a common evolutionary pattern contributing to increased phenotypic complexity. Here, we study the genomic intervals affecting the variational independence of fore- and hind limb traits within an experimental mouse population. We use an advanced intercross of inbred mouse strains to map the loci associated with the degree of autonomy between fore- and hind limb long bone lengths (loci affecting the relationship between traits, relationship quantitative trait loci [rQTL]). These loci have been proposed to interact locally with the products of pleiotropic genes, thereby freeing the local trait from the variational constraint due to pleiotropic mutations. Using the known polymorphisms (single nucleotide polymorphisms [SNPs]) between the parental strains, we characterized and compared the genomic regions in which the rQTL, as well as their interaction partners (intQTL), reside. We find that these two classes of QTL intervals harbor different kinds of molecular variation. SNPs in rQTL intervals more frequently reside in limb-specific cis-regulatory regions than SNPs in intQTL intervals. The intQTL loci modified by the rQTL, in contrast, show the signature of protein-coding variation. This result is consistent with the widely accepted view that protein-coding mutations have broader pleiotropic effects than cis-regulatory polymorphisms. For both types of QTL intervals, the underlying candidate genes are enriched for genes involved in protein binding. This finding suggests that rQTL effects are caused by local interactions among the products of the causal genes harbored in rQTL and intQTL intervals. This is the first study to systematically document the population-level molecular variation underlying the evolution of character individuation.


Author Posting. © Palicev et al., 2013. This article is posted here by permission of the authors for personal use, not for redistribution. The article was published in Genome Biology and Evolution, Volume 5, Issue 10, 2013.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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