PREMISE OF STUDY - Botanists have long been interested in the reasons for genetic variation among individuals, populations, and species of plants. The anthocyanin pathway is ideal for studying the evolution of such phenotypic variation.
METHODS - We used a combination of quantitative trait loci mapping and association studies to understand the genetic basis of variation in five anthocyanin phenotypes including calyx, corolla, and leaf coloration patterns that vary within and among populations of Mimulus guttatus. We then examined what genes might be responsible for this phenotypic variation and whether one of the traits, calyx spotting, is randomly distributed across the geographic range of the species.
KEY RESULTS - All five phenotypes in M. guttatus were primarily controlled by the same major locus (PLA1), which contains a tandem array of three R2R3-MYB genes known to be involved in the evolution of flower color in a related species of Mimulus. Calyx spotting was nonrandomly distributed across the range of M. guttatus and correlated with multiple climate variables.
CONCLUSIONS - The results of this study suggest that variation in R2R3-MYB genes is the primary cause of potentially important anthocyanin phenotypic variation within and among populations of M. guttatus, a finding consistent with recent theoretical and empirical research on flower color evolution.