Flowering time QTL in natural populations of Arabidopsis thaliana and implications for their adaptive value

Mol Ecol. 2014 Sep;23(17):4291-303. doi: 10.1111/mec.12857. Epub 2014 Aug 12.


The genetic basis of phenotypic traits is of great interest to evolutionary biologists, but their contribution to adaptation in nature is often unknown. To determine the genetic architecture of flowering time in ecologically relevant conditions, we used a recombinant inbred line population created from two locally adapted populations of Arabidopsis thaliana from Sweden and Italy. Using these RILs, we identified flowering time QTL in growth chambers that mimicked the natural temperature and photoperiod variation across the growing season in each native environment. We also compared the genomic locations of flowering time QTL to those of fitness (total fruit number) QTL from a previous three-year field study. Ten total flowering time QTL were found, and in all cases, the Italy genotype caused early flowering regardless of the conditions. Two QTL were consistent across chamber environments, and these had the largest effects on flowering time. Five of the fitness QTL colocalized with flowering time QTL found in the Italy conditions, and in each case, the local genotype was favoured. In contrast, just two flowering time QTL found in the Sweden conditions colocalized with fitness QTL and in only one case was the local genotype favoured. This implies that flowering time may be more important for adaptation in Italy than Sweden. Two candidate genes (FLC and VIN3) underlying the major flowering time QTL found in the current study are implicated in local adaptation.

Keywords: adaptation; ecological genetics; life history evolution; phenotypic plasticity; quantitative genetics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / physiology
  • Flowers / physiology*
  • Genetic Fitness
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Genotype
  • Italy
  • Models, Genetic
  • Phenotype
  • Quantitative Trait Loci*
  • Sweden