Abstracts (first author)
Mapping the transgenerational epigenetic basis of complex traits in Arabidopsis
Quantifying the impact of heritable epigenetic variation on complex traits is an emerging challenge in population biology. Here we analyzed a panel of nearly isogenic Arabidopsis lines which segregate experimentally induced DNA methylation changes genome-wide. We provide compelling evidence that a small number of transgenerationally stable differentially methylated regions (DMRs) act as bone fide epigenetic quantitative trait loci (QTL^epi) in this population, accounting for 60-90% of the observed heritability underlying two complex traits, flowering time and root length. We show that these QTL^epi are reproducible and can be subjected to artificial selection. Over 75% of the putative causal DMRs within the QTL interval are also variable in wild populations of this species and are not significantly associated with cis or trans acting SNPs. These sequence-independent DMRs may be an important source of phenotypic diversity in ecological settings and thus provide a basis for Darwinian evolution.