Epigenetic effects attributed to genomic imprinting are increasingly recognized as an important source of variation in quantitative traits. However, little is known about their relative contribution to phenotypic variation compared to those of additive and dominance effects, and almost nothing about their role in phenotypic evolution. Here we address these questions by investigating the relative contribution of additive, dominance, and imprinting effects of quantitative trait loci (QTL) to variation in “early” and “late” body weight in an intercross of mice selected for divergent adult body weight. We identified 18 loci on 13 chromosomes; additive effects accounted for most of the phenotypic variation throughout development, and imprinting effects were always small. Genetic effects on early weight showed more dominance, less additive, and, surprisingly, less imprinting variation than that of late weight. The predominance of additivity of QTL effects on body weight follows the expectation that additive effects account for the evolutionary divergence between selection lines. We hypothesize that the appearance of more imprinting effects on late body weight may be a consequence of divergent selection on adult body weight, which may have indirectly selected for alleles showing partial imprinting effects due to their associated additive effects, highlighting a potential role of genomic imprinting in the response to selection.
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Vol. 63 • No. 5