Automated image acquisition, a custom analysis algorithm, and a distributed computing resource were used to add time as a third dimension to a quantitative trait locus (QTL) map for plant root gravitropism, a model growth response to an environmental cue. Digital images of Arabidopsis thaliana seedling roots from two independently reared sets of 162 recombinant inbred lines (RILs) and one set of 92 near isogenic lines (NILs) derived from a Cape Verde Islands (Cvi) × Landsberg erecta (Ler) cross were collected automatically every 2 min for 8 hr following induction of gravitropism by 90° reorientation of the sample. High-throughput computing (HTC) was used to measure root tip angle in each of the 1.1 million images acquired and perform statistical regression of tip angle against the genotype at each of the 234 RIL or 102 NIL DNA markers independently at each time point using a standard stepwise procedure. Time-dependent QTL were detected on chromosomes 1, 3, and 4 by this mapping method and by an approach developed to treat the phenotype time course as a function-valued trait. The QTL on chromosome 4 was earliest, appearing at 0.5 hr and remaining significant for 5 hr, while the QTL on chromosome 1 appeared at 3 hr and thereafter remained significant. The Cvi allele generally had a negative effect of 2.6-4.0%. Heritability due to the QTL approached 25%. This study shows how computer vision and statistical genetic analysis by HTC can characterize the developmental timing of genetic architectures.
Keywords: Arabidopsis; QTL; natural variation; root gravitropism.