Ms Lizette Loubser
Systems genetics approaches aim to understand the flow of biological information underlying complex traits by quantifying intermediate phenotypes, such as gene expression levels. To dissect the genetic architecture of wood property traits and analyse age-to-age correlation of xylem gene expression, we will perform whole-transcriptome sequencing of developing xylem tissue from individuals in an interspecific Eucalyptus hybrid population sampled at juvenile (3.5 years) and rotation age (8.5 years). We aim to compare eQTL networks across age and determine the broad-sense heritability of clonal replicates of the same individuals by studying the correlation of their expression values. This knowledge can be used to engineer or breed for these traits with the aim of gaining specific biotechnology outcomes, while avoiding any negative effects on plant growth. Heritability shows to what extent gene expression variation is determined by genetic variation, rather than environmental variation, and age-to-age correlation of systems genetics data in the same population allows us to identify novel and conserved regulatory polymorphisms acting at different ages. This also enables us to determine the conservation of eQTLs and genetic architecture across age, which will ultimately establish whether systems genetics data from different ages can be used to prioritize candidate genes for genetic engineering.