Pleiotropy, the concept that a single gene controls multiple distinct traits, is prevalent in most organisms and has broad implications for medicine and agriculture. The identification of the molecular mechanisms underlying pleiotropy has the power to reveal previously unknown biological connections between seemingly unrelated traits. Additionally, the discovery of pleiotropic genes increases our understanding of both genetic and phenotypic complexity by characterizing novel gene functions. Quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping has been used to identify several pleiotropic regions in many organisms. However, gene knockout studies are needed to eliminate the possibility of tightly linked, non-pleiotropic loci. Here, we use a panel of 296 recombinant inbred advanced intercross lines of Caenorhabditis elegans and a high-throughput fitness assay to identify a single large-effect QTL on the center of chromosome V associated with variation in responses to eight chemotherapeutics. We validate this QTL with near-isogenic lines and pair genome-wide gene expression data with drug response traits to perform mediation analysis, leading to the identification of a pleiotropic candidate gene, scb-1, for some of the eight chemotherapeutics. Using deletion strains created by genome editing, we show that scb-1, which was previously implicated in response to bleomycin, also underlies responses to other double-strand DNA break-inducing chemotherapeutics. This finding provides new evidence for the role of scb-1 in the nematode drug response and highlights the power of mediation analysis to identify causal genes.
Keywords: C. elegans; QTL; chemotherapeutics; mediation; pleiotropy.
Copyright © 2020 Evans, Andersen.