Repeated attempts to map the genomic basis of complex traits often yield different outcomes because of the influence of genetic background, gene-by-environment interactions, and/or statistical limitations. However, where repeatability is low at the level of individual genes, overlap often occurs in gene ontology categories, genetic pathways, and interaction networks. Here we report on the genomic overlap for natural desiccation resistance from a Pool-genome-wide association study experiment and a selection experiment in flies collected from the same region in southeastern Australia in different years. We identified over 600 single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with desiccation resistance in flies derived from almost 1,000 wild-caught genotypes, a similar number of loci to that observed in our previous genomic study of selected lines, demonstrating the genetic complexity of this ecologically important trait. By harnessing the power of cross-study comparison, we narrowed the candidates from almost 400 genes in each study to a core set of 45 genes, enriched for stimulus, stress, and defense responses. In addition to gene-level overlap, there was higher order congruence at the network and functional levels, suggesting genetic redundancy in key stress sensing, stress response, immunity, signaling, and gene expression pathways. We also identified variants linked to different molecular aspects of desiccation physiology previously verified from functional experiments. Our approach provides insight into the genomic basis of a complex and ecologically important trait and predicts candidate genetic pathways to explore in multiple genetic backgrounds and related species within a functional framework.
Keywords: Drosophila; GWAS; desiccation; gene overlap.
© The Author(s) 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.