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Induced mutations alter patterns of quantitative variation, phenotypic integration, and plasticity to elevated CO2 in Arabidopsis thaliana

Jonas, Mark, Navarro, Dania
Journal of plant research 2019 v.132 no.1 pp. 33-47
Arabidopsis thaliana, anthropogenic activities, carbon dioxide enrichment, climate change, ethyl methanesulfonate, evolution, genetic background, genetic variation, genotype-environment interaction, heritability, induced mutation, models, mutagenesis, mutagens, phenotype, phenotypic plasticity, prediction
A key step toward predicting responses to climate change is characterizing genetic variation in populations. While short-term responses will likely be shaped by currently available genetic variation, longer-term evolutionary responses will depend on the supply of novel variation by, ultimately, mutation. Studying mutational contributions to phenotypic variation can provide insights into the extent of potential variation on which selection may operate in future human-altered environments. Here we used the chemical mutagen ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS) to explore mutational contributions to phenotypic variation, integration, and plasticity to elevated carbon dioxide (eCO₂) in three accessions of Arabidopsis thaliana. We found that (1) mutagenesis increased broad-sense heritabilities and variation in plasticity to eCO₂ (genotype by environment interactions); (2) mutational effects varied among the three genetic backgrounds; (3) induced mutations had non-random (biased) effects on patterns of phenotypic integration. To our knowledge, this is the first study to address the effects of chemically induced mutations on phenotypic plasticity to eCO₂ in a model plant. We discuss our results in light of emerging insights from theoretical and empirical quantitative genetics, suggest potential avenues of research, and identify approaches that may help advance our understanding of climate-driven evolution in plants.