High-resolution imaging as a tool for identifying quantitative trait loci that regulate photomorphogenesis in Arabidopsis thaliana

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A primary component of seedling establishment is the photomorphogenic response as seedlings emerge from the soil. This process is characterized by a reduced growth rate in the hypocotyl, increased root growth, opening of the apical hook and expansion of the cotyledons as photosynthetic organs. While fundamental to plant success, the photomorphogenic response can be highly variable. Additionally, studies of Arabidopsis thaliana are made difficult by subtle differences in growth rate between individuals. High-resolution imaging and computational processing have emerged as useful tools for quantification of such phenotypes. This study sought to: (i) develop an imaging methodology which could capture changes in growth rate as seedlings transition from darkness to blue light in real time, and (ii) apply this methodology to single-quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis using the Cvi × Ler recombinant inbred line (RIL) mapping population. Significant differences in the photomorphogenic response were observed between the parent lines and analysis of 158 RILs revealed a wide range of growth rate phenotypes. Quantitative trait locus analysis detected significant loci associated with dark growth rate on chromosome 5 and significant loci associated with light growth rate on chromosome 2. Candidate genes associated with these loci, such as the previously characterized ER locus, highlight the application of this approach for QTL analysis. Genetic analysis of Landsberg lines without the erecta mutation also supports a role for ER in modulating the photomorphogenic response, consistent with previous QTL analyses of this population. Strengths and limitations of this methodology are presented, as well as means of improvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberplab063
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the University of Minnesota.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company.


  • High-resolution phenotyping
  • QTL analysis
  • photomorphogenesis


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