Genetic dissection of a model complex trait using the Drosophila Synthetic Population Resource

Genome Res. 2012 Aug;22(8):1558-66. doi: 10.1101/gr.134031.111. Epub 2012 Apr 10.


Genetic dissection of complex, polygenic trait variation is a key goal of medical and evolutionary genetics. Attempts to identify genetic variants underlying complex traits have been plagued by low mapping resolution in traditional linkage studies, and an inability to identify variants that cumulatively explain the bulk of standing genetic variation in genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Thus, much of the heritability remains unexplained for most complex traits. Here we describe a novel, freely available resource for the Drosophila community consisting of two sets of recombinant inbred lines (RILs), each derived from an advanced generation cross between a different set of eight highly inbred, completely resequenced founders. The Drosophila Synthetic Population Resource (DSPR) has been designed to combine the high mapping resolution offered by multiple generations of recombination, with the high statistical power afforded by a linkage-based design. Here, we detail the properties of the mapping panel of >1600 genotyped RILs, and provide an empirical demonstration of the utility of the approach by genetically dissecting alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) enzyme activity. We confirm that a large fraction of the variation in this classic quantitative trait is due to allelic variation at the Adh locus, and additionally identify several previously unknown modest-effect trans-acting QTL (quantitative trait loci). Using a unique property of multiparental linkage mapping designs, for each QTL we highlight a relatively small set of candidate causative variants for follow-up work. The DSPR represents an important step toward the ultimate goal of a complete understanding of the genetics of complex traits in the Drosophila model system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Chromosome Mapping / methods*
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Female
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genotyping Techniques / methods*
  • Inbreeding
  • Male
  • Models, Animal
  • Phenotype
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • ADH protein, Drosophila
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase