International Mammalian Genome Society

logo18th International Mouse Genome Conference

17-22 October 2004, Seattle, USA


Kenney JP, Wong B, Pletscher LS, Cheverud JM

Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Washington University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, MO, United States

In order to understand the role of genetic variation in morphological evolution, it is important to investigate the genetic architecture of morphological traits. Aspects of genetic architecture include number and size of gene effects, dominance, epistasis, and pleiotropy.

Pleiotropy is predicted to evolve so that functionally and developmentally related traits are influenced by the same loci.  When functional systems evolve in concert, adaptive evolution is facilitated. Thus, the evolution of development is predicted to result in a nested hierarchy of gene effects reflecting the nested hierarchy of functional or developmental effects.  To date, there have been no comprehensive surveys of genetic architecture that reflect functional and developmental hierarchies.

We have undertaken a comprehensive survey of pleiotropic patterns affecting mouse skeletal morphology over the entire skeleton, including aspects of several modules and levels of morphological hierarchy, in order to elucidate the evolved genetic architecture of skeletal morphology and the consequences of this architecture for evolutionary processes. We predict that pleiotropic relationships will mirror the developmental and functional relationships of the mouse skeleton, and reflect the hierarchy of modules within the skeleton.

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