Natural variation at FLM splicing has pleiotropic effects modulating ecological strategies in Arabidopsis thaliana

Nat Commun. 2020 Aug 18;11(1):4140. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-17896-w.


Investigating the evolution of complex phenotypes and the underlying molecular bases of their variation is critical to understand how organisms adapt to their environment. Applying classical quantitative genetics on a segregating population derived from a Can-0xCol-0 cross, we identify the MADS-box transcription factor FLOWERING LOCUS M (FLM) as a player of the phenotypic variation in plant growth and color. We show that allelic variation at FLM modulates plant growth strategy along the leaf economics spectrum, a trade-off between resource acquisition and resource conservation, observable across thousands of plant species. Functional differences at FLM rely on a single intronic substitution, disturbing transcript splicing and leading to the accumulation of non-functional FLM transcripts. Associations between this substitution and phenotypic and climatic data across Arabidopsis natural populations, show how noncoding genetic variation at a single gene might be adaptive through pleiotropic effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / genetics*
  • Genetic Pleiotropy
  • Genetic Variation
  • Introns
  • MADS Domain Proteins / genetics*
  • MADS Domain Proteins / metabolism*
  • Phenotype
  • Plant Leaves / genetics
  • Plant Leaves / physiology
  • Quantitative Trait Loci / genetics
  • RNA Splicing / genetics*
  • Temperature


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • FLM protein, Arabidopsis
  • MADS Domain Proteins