Reciprocal cybrids reveal how organellar genomes affect plant phenotypes

Flood, Pádraic J.; Theeuwen, Tom P.J.M.; Schneeberger, Korbinian; Keizer, Paul; Kruijer, Willem; Severing, Edouard; Kouklas, Evangelos; Hageman, Jos A.; Wijfjes, Raúl; Calvo-Baltanas, Vanesa; Becker, Frank F.M.; Schnabel, Sabine K.; Willems, Leo A.J.; Ligterink, Wilco; Arkel, Jeroen Van; Mumm, Roland; Gualberto, José M.; Savage, Linda; Kramer, David M.; Keurentjes, Joost J.B.; Eeuwijk, Fred Van; Koornneef, Maarten; Harbinson, Jeremy; Aarts, Mark G.M.; Wijnker, Erik


Assessment of the impact of variation in chloroplast and mitochondrial DNA (collectively termed the plasmotype) on plant phenotypes is challenging due to the difficulty in separating their effect from nuclear-derived variation (the nucleotype). Haploid-inducer lines can be used as efficient plasmotype donors to generate new plasmotype–nucleotype combinations (cybrids)1. We generated a panel comprising all possible cybrids of seven Arabidopsis thaliana accessions and extensively phenotyped these lines for 1,859 phenotypes under both stable and fluctuating conditions. We show that natural variation in the plasmotype results in both additive and epistatic effects across all phenotypic categories. Plasmotypes that induce more additive phenotypic changes also cause more epistatic effects, suggesting a possible common basis for both additive and epistatic effects. On average, epistatic interactions explained twice as much of the variance in phenotypes as additive plasmotype effects. The impact of plasmotypic variation was also more pronounced under fluctuating and stressful environmental conditions. Thus, the phenotypic impact of variation in plasmotypes is the outcome of multi-level nucleotype–plasmotype–environment interactions and, as such, the plasmotype is likely to serve as a reservoir of variation that is predominantly exposed under certain conditions. The production of cybrids using haploid inducers is a rapid and precise method for assessment of the phenotypic effects of natural variation in organellar genomes. It will facilitate efficient screening of unique nucleotype–plasmotype combinations to both improve our understanding of natural variation in these combinations and identify favourable combinations to enhance plant performance.