Variation in leaf development caused by water deficit was analysed in 120 recombinant inbred lines derived from two Arabidopsis thaliana accessions, Ler and An-1. Main effect quantitative trait loci (QTLs) and QTLs in epistatic interactions were mapped for the responses of rosette area, leaf number and leaf 6 area to water deficit. An epistatic interaction between two QTLs affected the response of whole rosette area and individual leaf area but only with effects in well-watered condition. A second epistatic interaction between two QTLs controlled the response of rosette area and leaf number with specific effects in the water deficit condition. These effects were validated by generating and phenotyping new appropriate lines. Accordingly, a low reduction of rosette area was observed for lines with a specific allelic combination at the two interacting QTLs. This low reduction was accompanied by an increase in leaf number with a lengthening of the vegetative phase and a low reduction in individual leaf area with low reductions in epidermal cell area and number. Statistical analyses suggested that responses of epidermal cell area and number to water deficit in individual leaves were partly caused by delay in flowering time and reduction in leaf emergence rate, respectively.
© 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.