The goal of this work was to identify genetic variants underlying a well-characterized environmental response, the elongation of Arabidopsis thaliana hypocotyls (seedling stems) in response to shade, otherwise known as shade avoidance. We performed a genome-wide association study with four phenotypes: absolute hypocotyl height of plants grown in both simulated sun and shade and two measures of how height responded to shade. With this study, we confirmed previous findings that variants in two photoreceptors were associated with hypocotyl height variation. We also found associations with genetic variants in previously-identified shade avoidance genes, as well as with variants in genes not typically considered part of the shade avoidance pathway. By examining patterns of which of the four phenotypes were associated with each gene, we were then able to discriminate between genetic variants that have a general role in hypocotyl height variation and variants that are specifically involved in the shade avoidance response. We also found that shade avoidance was not broadly associated with geography, suggesting that variation in this trait may be due to local differences in light quality.
Via GMI Vienna