Systems Genetics of Environmental Response in the Mature Wheat Embryo
Jesse D. Munkvold, Debbie Laudencia-Chingcuanco, Mark E. Sorrells


Quantitative phenotypic traits are influenced by genetic and environmental variables as well as the interaction between the two. Underlying genetic × environment interaction is the influence that the surrounding environment exerts on gene expression. Perturbation of gene expression by environmental factors manifests itself in alterations to gene co-expression networks and ultimately in phenotypic plasticity. Comparative gene co-expression networks have been used to uncover biological mechanisms that differentiate tissues or other biological factors. In this study, we have extended consensus and differential Weighted Gene Co-Expression Network Analysis to compare the influence of different growing environments on gene co-expression in the mature wheat (Triticum aestivum) embryo. This network approach was combined with mapping of individual gene expression QTL to examine the genetic control of environmentally static and variable gene expression. The approach is useful for gene expression experiments containing multiple environments and allowed for the identification of specific gene co-expression modules responsive to environmental factors. This procedure identified conserved coregulation of gene expression between environments related to basic developmental and cellular functions, including protein localization and catabolism, vesicle composition/trafficking, Golgi transport, and polysaccharide metabolism among others. Environmentally unique modules were found to contain genes with predicted functions in responding to abiotic and biotic environmental variables. These findings represent the first report using consensus and differential Weighted Gene Co-expression Network Analysis to characterize the influence of environment on coordinated transcriptional regulation.

  • Received February 2, 2013.
  • Accepted February 26, 2013.
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