François Vasseur, Thibaut Bontpart, Myriam Dauzat, Christine Granier, Denis Vile
How genetic factors control plant performance under stressful environmental conditions is a central question in ecology and for crop breeding. A multivariate framework was developed to examine the genetic architecture of performance-related traits in response to interacting environmental stresses. Ecophysiological and life history traits were quantified in the Arabidopsis thaliana Ler×Cvi mapping population exposed to constant soil water deficit and high air temperature. The plasticity of the genetic variance–covariance matrix (G-matrix) was examined using mixed-effects models after regression into principal components. Quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis was performed on the predictors of genotype effects and genotype by environment interactions (G×E). Three QTLs previously identified for flowering time had antagonistic G×E effects on carbon acquisition and the other traits (phenology, growth, leaf morphology, and transpiration). This resulted in a size-dependent response of water use efficiency (WUE) to high temperature but not soil water deficit, indicating that most of the plasticity of carbon acquisition and WUE to temperature is controlled by the loci that control variation of development, size, growth, and transpiration. A fourth QTL, MSAT2.22, controlled the response of carbon acquisition to specific combinations of watering and temperature irrespective of plant size and development, growth, and transpiration rate, which resulted in size-independent plasticity of WUE. These findings highlight how the strategies to optimize plant performance may differ in response to water deficit and high temperature (or their combination), and how different G×E effects could be targeted to improve plant tolerance to these stresses.