Gene expression variation and parental allele inheritance in a <i>Xiphophorus</i> interspecies hybridization model

by Yuan Lu, Mikki Boswell, William Boswell, Susanne Kneitz, Barbara Klotz, Markita Savage, Raquel Salinas, Rebecca Marks, Janine Regneri, John Postlethwait, Wesley C. Warren, Manfred Schartl, Ronald Walter

Understanding the genetic mechanisms underlying segregation of phenotypic variation through successive generations is important for understanding physiological changes and disease risk. Tracing the etiology of variation in gene expression enables identification of genetic interactions, and may uncover molecular mechanisms leading to the phenotypic expression of a trait, especially when utilizing model organisms that have well-defined genetic lineages. There are a plethora of studies that describe relationships between gene expression and genotype, however, the idea that global variations in gene expression are also controlled by genotype remains novel. Despite the identification of loci that control gene expression variation, the global understanding of how genome constitution affects trait variability is unknown. To study this question, we utilized Xiphophorus fish of different, but tractable genetic backgrounds (inbred, F1 interspecies hybrids, and backcross hybrid progeny), and measured each individual’s gene expression concurrent with the degrees of inter-individual expression variation. We found, (a) F1 interspecies hybrids exhibited less variability than inbred animals, indicting gene expression variation is not affected by the fraction of heterozygous loci within an individual genome, and (b), that mixing genotypes in backcross populations led to higher levels of gene expression variability, supporting the idea that expression variability is caused by heterogeneity of genotypes of cis or trans loci. In conclusion, heterogeneity of genotype, introduced by inheritance of different alleles, accounts for the largest effects on global phenotypical variability.

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