Genetic mapping studies of quantitative traits typically focus on detecting loci that contribute additively to trait variation. Genetic interactions are often proposed as a contributing factor to trait variation, but the relative contribution of interactions to trait variation is a subject of debate. Here we use a very large cross between two yeast strains to accurately estimate the fraction of phenotypic variance due to pairwise QTL-QTL interactions for 20 quantitative traits. We find that this fraction is 9% on average, substantially less than the contribution of additive QTL (43%). Statistically significant QTL-QTL pairs typically have small individual effect sizes, but collectively explain 40% of the pairwise interaction variance. We show that pairwise interaction variance is largely explained by pairs of loci at least one of which has a significant additive effect. These results refine our understanding of the genetic architecture of quantitative traits and help guide future mapping studies.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grant R01 GM102308, a James S. McDonnell Centennial Fellowship, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (L.K.).
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