Coordinated expression of embryo and endosperm tissues is required for proper seed development. The coordination among these two tissues is controlled by the interaction between multiple genes expressed in the embryo and endosperm genomes. In this article, we present a statistical model for testing whether quantitative trait loci (QTL) active in different genomes, diploid embryo and triploid endosperm, epistatically affect a trait expressed on the endosperm tissue. The maximum likelihood approach, implemented with the EM algorithm, was derived to provide the maximum likelihood estimates of the locations of embryo- and endosperm-specific QTL and their main effects and epistatic effects. This model was used in a real example for rice in which two QTL, one from the embryo genome and the other from the endosperm genome, exert a significant interaction effect on gel consistency on the endosperm. Our model has successfully detected Waxy, a candidate gene in the embryo genome known to regulate one of the major steps of amylose biosynthesis in the endosperm. This model will have great implications for agricultural and evolutionary genetic research.
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