Network-guided GWAS improves identification of genes affecting free amino acids

Ruthie Angelovici, Albert Batushansky, Nicholas Deason, Sabrina Gonzalez-Jorge, Michael A. Gore, Aaron Fait, Dean Dellapenna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Amino acids are essential for proper growth and development in plants. Amino acids serve as building blocks for proteins but also are important for responses to stress and the biosynthesis of numerous essential compounds. In seed, the pool of free amino acids (FAAs) also contributes to alternative energy, desiccation, and seed vigor; thus, manipulating FAA levels can significantly impact a seed’s nutritional qualities. While genome-wide association studies (GWAS) on branched-chain amino acids have identified some regulatory genes controlling seed FAAs, the genetic regulation of FAA levels, composition, and homeostasis in seeds remains mostly unresolved. Hence, we performed GWAS on 18 FAAs from a 313-ecotype Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) association panel. Specifically, GWAS was performed on 98 traits derived from known amino acid metabolic pathways (approach 1) and then on 92 traits generated from an unbiased correlation-based metabolic network analysis (approach 2), and the results were compared. The latter approach facilitated the discovery of additional novel metabolic interactions and single-nucleotide polymorphism-trait associations not identified by the former approach. The most prominent network-guided GWAS signal was for a histidine (His)-related trait in a region containing two genes: a cationic amino acid transporter (CAT4) and a polynucleotide phosphorylase resistant to inhibition with fosmidomycin. A reverse genetics approach confirmed CAT4 to be responsible for the natural variation of His-related traits across the association panel. Given that His is a semiessential amino acid and a potent metal chelator, CAT4 orthologs could be considered as candidate genes for seed quality biofortification in crop plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)872-886
Number of pages15
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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