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Phenotypic plasticity in plant height shaped by interaction between genetic loci and diurnal temperature range

Qi Mu, Tingting Guo, Xianran Li, Jianming Yu
The new phytologist 2022 v.233 no.4 pp. 1768-1779
Sorghum bicolor, dissection, genomics, genotype, growth curves, mature plants, phenotypic plasticity, plant height, temperature
Phenotypic plasticity is observed widely in plants and often studied with reaction norms for adult plant or end‐of‐season traits. Uncovering genetic, environmental and developmental patterns behind the observed phenotypic variation under natural field conditions is needed. Using a sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) genetic population evaluated for plant height in seven natural field conditions, we investigated the major pattern that differentiated these environments. We then examined the physiological relevance of the identified environmental index by investigating the developmental trajectory of the population with multistage height measurements in four additional environments and conducting crop growth modelling. We found that diurnal temperature range (DTR) during the rapid growth period of sorghum development was an effective environmental index. Three genetic loci (Dw1, Dw3 and qHT7.1) were consistently detected for individual environments, reaction‐norm parameters across environments and growth‐curve parameters through the season. Their genetic effects changed dynamically along the environmental gradient and the developmental stage. A conceptual model with three‐dimensional reaction norms was proposed to showcase the interconnecting components: genotype, environment and development. Beyond genomic and environmental analyses, further integration of development and physiology at the whole‐plant and molecular levels into complex trait dissection would enhance our understanding of mechanisms underlying phenotypic variation.