The impact of species-wide gene expression variation on Caenorhabditis elegans complex traits

Gaotian Zhang, Nicole M. Roberto, Daehan Lee, Steffen R. Hahnel, Erik C. Andersen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Phenotypic variation in organism-level traits has been studied in Caenorhabditis elegans wild strains, but the impacts of differences in gene expression and the underlying regulatory mechanisms are largely unknown. Here, we use natural variation in gene expression to connect genetic variants to differences in organismal-level traits, including drug and toxicant responses. We perform transcriptomic analyses on 207 genetically distinct C. elegans wild strains to study natural regulatory variation of gene expression. Using this massive dataset, we perform genome-wide association mappings to investigate the genetic basis underlying gene expression variation and reveal complex genetic architectures. We find a large collection of hotspots enriched for expression quantitative trait loci across the genome. We further use mediation analysis to understand how gene expression variation could underlie organism-level phenotypic variation for a variety of complex traits. These results reveal the natural diversity in gene expression and possible regulatory mechanisms in this keystone model organism, highlighting the promise of using gene expression variation to understand how phenotypic diversity is generated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3462
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • General
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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