Topological features of a gene co-expression network predict patterns of natural diversity in environmental response

David L. Des Marais, Rafael F. Guerrero, Jesse R. Lasky, Samuel V. Scarpino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Molecular interactions affect the evolution of complex traits. For instance, adaptation may be constrained by pleiotropic or epistatic effects, both of which can be reflected in the structure of molecular interaction networks. To date, empirical studies investigating the role of molecular interactions in phenotypic evolution have been idiosyncratic, offering no clear patterns. Here, we investigated the network topology of genes putatively involved in local adaptation to two abiotic stressors—drought and cold—in Arabidopsis thaliana. Our findings suggest that the gene-interaction topologies for both cold and drought stress response are non-random, with genes that show genetic variation in drought expression response (eGxE) being significantly more peripheral and cold response genes being significantly more central than genes which do not show GxE. We suggest that the observed topologies reflect different constraints on the genetic pathways involved in environmental response. The approach presented here may inform predictive models linking genetic variation in molecular signalling networks with phenotypic variation, specifically traits involved in environmental response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20170914
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1856
StatePublished - Jun 14 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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