The importance of genes of major effect for evolutionary trajectories within and among natural populations has long been the subject of intense debate. For example, if allelic variation at a major-effect locus fundamentally alters the structure of quantitative trait variation, then fixation of a single locus can have rapid and profound effects on the rate or direction of subsequent evolutionary change. Using an Arabidopsis thaliana RIL mapping population, we compare G-matrix structure between lines possessing different alleles at ERECTA, a locus known to affect ecologically relevant variation in plant architecture. We find that the allele present at ERECTA significantly alters G-matrix structure - in particular the genetic correlations between branch number and flowering time traits - and may also modulate the strength of natural selection on these traits. Despite these differences, however, when we extend our analysis to determine how evolution might differ depending on the ERECTA allele, we find that predicted responses to selection are similar. To compare responses to selection between allele classes, we developed a resampling strategy that incorporates uncertainty in estimates of selection that can also be used for statistical comparisons of G matrices.
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