Copyright © 2015 by the Genetics Society of America.
Telomeres represent the repetitive sequences that cap chromosome ends and are essential for their protection. Telomere length is known to be highly heritable and is derived from a homeostatic balance between telomeric lengthening and shortening activities. Specific loci that form the genetic framework underlying telomere length homeostasis, however, are not well understood. To investigate the extent of natural variation of telomere length in Arabidopsis thaliana, we examined 229 worldwide accessions by terminal restriction fragment analysis. The results showed a wide range of telomere lengths that are specific to individual accessions. To identify loci that are responsible for this variation, we adopted a quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping approach with multiple recombinant inbred line (RIL) populations. A doubled haploid RIL population was first produced using centromere-mediated genome elimination between accessions with long (Pro-0) and intermediate (Col-0) telomere lengths. Composite interval mapping analysis of this population along with two established RIL populations (Ler-2/Cvi-0 and Est-1/Col-0) revealed a number of shared and unique QTL. QTL detected in the Ler-2/Cvi-0 population were examined using near isogenic lines that confirmed causative regions on chromosomes 1 and 2. In conclusion, this work describes the extent of natural variation of telomere length in A. thaliana, identifies a network of QTL that influence telomere length homeostasis, examines telomere length dynamics in plants with hybrid backgrounds, and shows the effects of two identified regions on telomere length regulation.