QTL-based evidence for the role of epistasis in evolution

Genet Res. 2005 Oct;86(2):89-95. doi: 10.1017/S0016672305007780.


The extent to which epistasis contributes to adaptation and speciation has been a controversial topic in evolutionary genetics. One experimental approach to study epistasis is based on quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping using molecular markers. Comparisons can be made among all possible pair-wise combinations of the markers, irrespective of whether an additive QTL is associated with a marker; several software packages have been developed that facilitate this. We review several examples of using this approach to identify epistatic QTLs for traits of evolutionary or ecological interest. While there is variability in the results, the number of epistatic QTL interactions is often greater than or equal to the number of additive QTLs. The magnitude of epistatic effects can be larger than the additive effects. Thus, epistatic interactions seem to be an important part of natural genetic variation. Future studies of epistatic QTLs could lead to descriptions of the genetic networks underlying variation for fitness-related traits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Ecology
  • Epistasis, Genetic*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genes, Plant*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Quantitative Trait Loci
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Software