The genetic architecture of plant defense trade-offs in a common monkeyflower

Nicholas J. Kooyers, Abigail Donofrio, Benjamin K. Blackman, Liza M. Holeski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Determining how adaptive combinations of traits arose requires understanding the prevalence and scope of genetic constraints. Frequently observed phenotypic correlations between plant growth, defenses, and/or reproductive timing have led researchers to suggest that pleiotropy or strong genetic linkage between variants affecting independent traits is pervasive. Alternatively, these correlations could arise via independent mutations in different genes for each trait and extensive correlational selection. Here we evaluate these alternatives by conducting a quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping experiment involving a cross between 2 populations of common monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) that differ in growth rate as well as total concentration and arsenal composition of plant defense compounds, phenylpropanoid glycosides (PPGs). We find no evidence that pleiotropy underlies correlations between defense and growth rate. However, there is a strong genetic correlation between levels of total PPGs and flowering time that is largely attributable to a single shared QTL.While this result suggests a role for pleiotropy/close linkage, several other QTLs also contribute to variation in total PPGs. Additionally, divergent PPG arsenals are influenced by a number of smaller-effect QTLs that each underlie variation in 1 or 2 PPGs.This result indicates that chemical defense arsenals can be finely adapted to biotic environments despite sharing a common biochemical precursor. Together, our results show correlations between defense and life-history traits are influenced by pleiotropy or genetic linkage, but genetic constraints may have limited impact on future evolutionary responses, as a substantial proportion of variation in each trait is controlled by independent loci.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-345
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Heredity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Erythranthe guttata
  • Flowering time
  • Mimulus guttatus (common yellow monkeyflower)
  • Phenylpropanoid glycosides
  • Plant functional strategies
  • Quantitative trait loci (QTL)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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