Genetic variation for quantitative traits is often greater than that expected to be maintained by mutation in the face of purifying natural selection. One possible explanation for this observed variation is the action of heterogeneous natural selection in the wild. Here we report that selection on quantitative trait loci (QTL) for fitness traits in the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana differs among natural ecological settings and genetic backgrounds. At one QTL, the allele that enhanced the viability of fall-germinating seedlings in North Carolina reduced the fecundity of spring-germinating seedlings in Rhode Island. Several other QTL experienced strong directional selection, but only in one site and seasonal cohort. Thus, different loci were exposed to selection in different natural environments. Selection on allelic variation also depended upon the genetic background. The allelic fitness effects of two QTL reversed direction depending on the genotype at the other locus. Moreover, alternative alleles at each of these loci caused reversals in the allelic fitness effects of a QTL closely linked to TFL1, a candidate developmental gene displaying nucleotide sequence polymorphism consistent with balancing selection. Thus, both environmental heterogeneity and epistatic selection may maintain genetic variation for fitness in wild plant species.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||9|
|State||Published - Sep 1 2003|
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