The contribution of spontaneous mutation to variation in environmental responses of Arabidopsis thaliana: Responses to light

Christina M. Kavanaugh, Ruth G. Shaw

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7 Scopus citations


It has been hypothesized that new, spontaneous mutations tend to reduce fitness more severely in more stressful environments. To address this hypothesis, we grew plants representing 20 Arabidopsis thaliana mutation accumulation (M-A) lines, advanced to generation 17, and their progenitor, in differing light conditions. The experiment was conducted in a greenhouse, and two treatments were used: full sun and shade, in which influx of red light was reduced relative to far-red. The shade treatment was considered the more stressful because mean absolute fitness was lower in that treatment, though not significantly so. Plants from generation 17 of M-A developed significantly faster than those from generation 0 in both treatments. A significant interaction between generation and treatment revealed that, counter to the hypothesis, M-A lines tended to have higher fitness on average relative to the progenitor in the shaded conditions, whereas, in full sun, the two generations were similar in fitness. A secondary objective of this experiment was to characterize the contribution of new mutations to genotype x environment interaction. We did not, however, detect a significant interaction between M-A line and treatment. Plots of the line-specific environmental responses indicate no tendency of new mutations to contribute to fitness trade-offs between environments. They also do not support a model of conditionally deleterious mutation, in which a mutant reduces fitness only in a particular environment. These results suggest that interactions between genotype and light environment previously documented for A. thaliana are not explicable primarily as a consequence of steady input of spontaneous mutations having environment-specific effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)266-275
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2005


  • Genotype-by-environment interaction
  • Light quality
  • Mutation accumulation
  • Mutational variation
  • Quantitative genetics


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