GENETICS: Love Thy Neighbor

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Science  25 May 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5828, pp. 1101b
DOI: 10.1126/science.316.5828.1101b

Genes not only direct the expression of traits (phenotype) in an individual, but can also influence the phenotypes of neighbors. Mutic and Wolf have examined quantitative trait loci (QTL) governing size, growth, and fitness in Arabidopsis and whether they affect an individual directly as well as its neighbors indirectly. Of 15 QTL in the former category, they found that 13 showed indirect effects on the expression of traits in nearby plants. Unexpectedly, most of the pleiotropic effects were positively correlated rather than opposite in sign, as might have been expected on the basis of competition for resources. Facilitative or mutualistic relationships could involve interplant signaling, and several of the loci did map in the proximity of genes encoding components in the ethylene and auxin biosynthetic pathways. These results suggest that for plants, the environment in which they grow, especially the density of conspecific individuals, may affect the genetic composition of the population as a whole. — LMZ

Mol. Ecol. 16, 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03259x (2007).

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