In an earlier study, we reported the characterisation of quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for economically important traits related to wood production for a specific year of measurement. However, validating the detected QTLs across years is important for any strategy for marker-assisted selection (MAS). Therefore, we evaluated the consistency of the QTLs across four years in 9 to 12 year-old trees. Data related to tree height were analysed in two ways. The total height was used to characterise QTLs likely to be useful in MAS, and the increment values to evaluate growth regulation. Among the 11 QTLs detected, 4 were found in both the 1996 and 1997 evaluations. QTL numbers and locations related to total height were found to be highly stable. However, the QTL effects progressively changed in successive years, following either an increasing, decreasing or curvilinear trend. Depending on their specific trends, some QTLs may not be expressed at all later in maturity, or they may be expressed at a higher level. This will have direct consequences on the applicability of molecular markers in early screening programs, since a study at the mature stage may also be required. More variation in QTL number and effect was observed relating to height increment than to total height, indicating significant differences in gene expression during the growth periods involved.
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