Complex Rhythms

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Science  29 Jun 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5526, pp. 2399-2401
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5526.2399e

One of the hopes of the Human Genome Project has been to unearth the genetic basis of complex traits and diseases. This will be an arduous task indeed if a new paper by Shimomura et al. is any indication. They have studied circadian rhythms by examining five aspects of a wheel-running behavior (period, phase, amplitude, activity level, and dissociation) in two strains of mice (BALB/c and C57BL/6) and in the first- and second-generation progeny of matings between the strains. Quantitative trait locus analysis uncovered 14 loci with significant effects. A subsequent genome-wide analysis for epistatic genetic interactions identified two locus pairs, differing from any of the 14 loci, that affect two of the parameters when occurring together but not when occurring alone. All but two of these loci were clearly different from the mammalian clock genes. Thus, the variation in circadian behavior is determined by the accumulated effects of and interactions between many genes, most of which do not encode the central role players of the behavior. — KK

Genome Res.11, 959 (2001).

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