Intraspecific competition reveals conditional fitness effects of single gene polymorphism at the Arabidopsis root growth regulator BRX

New Phytol. 2008;180(1):71-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2008.02553.x.


Intraspecific genetic variation for morphological traits is observed in many organisms. In Arabidopsis thaliana, alleles responsible for intraspecific morphological variation are increasingly being identified. However, the fitness consequences remain unclear in most cases. Here, the fitness effects of alleles of the BRX gene are investigated. A brx loss-of-function allele, which was found in a natural accession, results in a highly branched but poorly elongated root system. Comparison between the control accession Sav-0 and an introgression of brx into this background (brxS) indicated that, surprisingly, brx loss of function did not negatively affect fitness in pure stands. However, in mixed, well-watered stands brxS performance and reproductive output decreased significantly, as the proportion of Sav-0 neighbors increased. Additional comparisons between brxS and a brxS line that was complemented by a BRX transgene confirmed a direct effect of the loss-of-function allele on plant performance, as indicated by restored competitive ability of the transgenic genotype. Further, because plant height was very similar across genotypes and because the experimental setup largely excluded shading effects, the impaired competitiveness of the brx loss-of-function genotype likely reflects below-ground competition. In summary, these data reveal conditional fitness effects of a single gene polymorphism in response to intraspecific competition in Arabidopsis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Environment
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genotype
  • Plant Roots / genetics
  • Plant Roots / growth & development
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Population Density
  • Population Dynamics


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • BREVIS RADIX protein, Arabidopsis