Quantitative traits in plants are controlled by a large number of genes and their interaction with the environment. To disentangle the genetic architecture of such traits, natural variation within species can be explored by studying genotype-phenotype relationships. Genome-wide association studies that link phenotypes to thousands of single nucleotide polymorphism markers are nowadays common practice for such analyses. In many cases, however, the identified individual loci cannot fully explain the heritability estimates, suggesting missing heritability. We analyzed 349 Arabidopsis accessions and found extensive variation and high heritabilities for different morphological traits. The number of significant genome-wide associations was, however, very low. The application of genomic prediction models that take into account the effects of all individual loci may greatly enhance the elucidation of the genetic architecture of quantitative traits in plants. Here, genomic prediction models revealed different genetic architectures for the morphological traits. Integrating genomic prediction and association mapping enabled the assignment of many plausible candidate genes explaining the observed variation. These genes were analyzed for functional and sequence diversity, and good indications that natural allelic variation in many of these genes contributes to phenotypic variation were obtained. For ACS11, an ethylene biosynthesis gene, haplotype differences explaining variation in the ratio of petiole and leaf length could be identified.
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