Date of Award

5-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Plant and Environmental Science

Advisor

Feltus, Frank A

Committee Member

Bielenberg , Douglas G

Committee Member

Luo , Feng

Committee Member

Luo , Hong

Abstract

It is becoming increasingly urgent to identify and understand the mechanisms underlying complex traits. Expected increases in the human population coupled with climate change make this especially urgent for grasses in the Poaceae family because these serve as major staples of the human and livestock diets worldwide. In particular, Oryza sativa (rice), Triticum spp. (wheat), Zea mays (maize), and Saccharum spp. (sugarcane) are among the top agricultural commodities. Molecular marker tools such as linkage-based Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) mapping, Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS), Multiple Marker Assisted Selection (MMAS), and Genome Selection (GS) techniques offer promise for understanding the mechanisms behind complex traits and to improve breeding programs. These methods have shown some success. Often, however, they cannot identify the causal genes underlying traits nor the biological context in which those genes function. To improve our understanding of complex traits as well improve breeding techniques, additional tools are needed to augment existing methods. This work proposes a knowledge-independent systems-genetic paradigm that integrates results from genetic studies such as QTL mapping, GWAS and mutational insertion lines such as Tos17 with gene co-expression networks for grasses--in particular for rice. The techniques described herein attempt to overcome the bias of limited human knowledge by relying solely on the underlying signals within the data to capture a holistic representation of gene interactions for a species. Through integration of gene co-expression networks with genetic signal, modules of genes can be identified with potential effect for a given trait, and the biological function of those interacting genes can be determined.

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