Epistatic interactions of genes influence within-individual variation of physical activity traits in mice
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- Leamy, L.J., Pomp, D. & Lightfoot, J.T. Genetica (2011) 139: 813. doi:10.1007/s10709-011-9586-9
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A number of quantitative trait loci (QTLs) recently have been discovered that affect various activity traits in mice, but their collective impact does not appear to explain the consistently moderate to high heritabilities for these traits. We previously suggested interactions of genes, or epistasis, might account for additional genetic variability of activity, and tested this for the average distance, duration and speed run by mice during a 3 week period. We found abundant evidence for epistasis affecting these traits, although, recognized that epistatic effects may well vary within individuals over time. We therefore conducted a full genome scan for epistatic interactions affecting these traits in each of seven three-day intervals. Our intent was to assess the extent and trends in epistasis affecting these traits in each of the intervals. We discovered a number of epistatic interactions of QTLs that influenced the activity traits in the mice, the majority of which were not previously found and appeared to affect the activity traits (especially distance and speed) primarily in the early or in the late age intervals. The overall impact of epistasis was considerable, its contribution to the total phenotypic variance varying from an average of 22–35% in the three traits across all age intervals. It was concluded that epistasis is more important than single-locus effects of genes on activity traits at specific ages and it is therefore an essential component of the genetic architecture of physical activity.