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1.  Complete Chloroplast Genome of the Multifunctional Crop Globe Artichoke and Comparison with Other Asteraceae 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0120589.
With over 20,000 species, Asteraceae is the second largest plant family. High-throughput sequencing of nuclear and chloroplast genomes has allowed for a better understanding of the evolutionary relationships within large plant families. Here, the globe artichoke chloroplast (cp) genome was obtained by a combination of whole-genome and BAC clone high-throughput sequencing. The artichoke cp genome is 152,529 bp in length, consisting of two single-copy regions separated by a pair of inverted repeats (IRs) of 25,155 bp, representing the longest IRs found in the Asteraceae family so far. The large (LSC) and the small (SSC) single-copy regions span 83,578 bp and 18,641 bp, respectively. The artichoke cp sequence was compared to the other eight Asteraceae complete cp genomes available, revealing an IR expansion at the SSC/IR boundary. This expansion consists of 17 bp of the ndhF gene generating an overlap between the ndhF and ycf1 genes. A total of 127 cp simple sequence repeats (cpSSRs) were identified in the artichoke cp genome, potentially suitable for future population studies in the Cynara genus. Parsimony-informative regions were evaluated and allowed to place a Cynara species within the Asteraceae family tree. The eight most informative coding regions were also considered and tested for “specific barcode” purpose in the Asteraceae family. Our results highlight the usefulness of cp genome sequencing in exploring plant genome diversity and retrieving reliable molecular resources for phylogenetic and evolutionary studies, as well as for specific barcodes in plants.
PMCID: PMC4361619  PMID: 25774672
3.  High Rates of Gene Flow by Pollen and Seed in Oak Populations across Europe 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85130.
Gene flow is a key factor in the evolution of species, influencing effective population size, hybridisation and local adaptation. We analysed local gene flow in eight stands of white oak (mostly Quercus petraea and Q. robur, but also Q. pubescens and Q. faginea) distributed across Europe.
Adult trees within a given area in each stand were exhaustively sampled (range [239, 754], mean 423), mapped, and acorns were collected ([17,147], 51) from several mother trees ([3], [47], 23). Seedlings ([65,387], 178) were harvested and geo-referenced in six of the eight stands. Genetic information was obtained from screening distinct molecular markers spread across the genome, genotyping each tree, acorn or seedling. All samples were thus genotyped at 5–8 nuclear microsatellite loci. Fathers/parents were assigned to acorns and seedlings using likelihood methods. Mating success of male and female parents, pollen and seed dispersal curves, and also hybridisation rates were estimated in each stand and compared on a continental scale.
On average, the percentage of the wind-borne pollen from outside the stand was 60%, with large variation among stands (21–88%). Mean seed immigration into the stand was 40%, a high value for oaks that are generally considered to have limited seed dispersal. However, this estimate varied greatly among stands (20–66%). Gene flow was mostly intraspecific, with large variation, as some trees and stands showed particularly high rates of hybridisation.
Our results show that mating success was unevenly distributed among trees. The high levels of gene flow suggest that geographically remote oak stands are unlikely to be genetically isolated, questioning the static definition of gene reserves and seed stands.
PMCID: PMC3890301  PMID: 24454802
4.  Contrasting patterns of nucleotide diversity for four conifers of Alpine European forests 
Evolutionary Applications  2012;5(7):762-775.
A candidate gene approach was used to identify levels of nucleotide diversity and to identify genes departing from neutral expectations in coniferous species of the Alpine European forest. Twelve samples were collected from four species that dominate montane and subalpine forests throughout Europe: Abies alba Mill, Larix decidua Mill, Pinus cembra L., and Pinus mugo Turra. A total of 800 genes, originally resequenced in Pinus taeda L., were resequenced across 12 independent trees for each of the four species. Genes were assigned to two categories, candidate and control, defined through homology-based searches to Arabidopsis. Estimates of nucleotide diversity per site varied greatly between polymorphic candidate genes (range: 0.0004–0.1295) and among species (range: 0.0024–0.0082), but were within the previously established ranges for conifers. Tests of neutrality using stringent significance thresholds, performed under the standard neutral model, revealed one to seven outlier loci for each species. Some of these outliers encode proteins that are involved with plant stress responses and form the basis for further evolutionary enquiries.
PMCID: PMC3492901  PMID: 23144662
candidate gene; neutrality tests; nucleotide diversity; single nucleotide polymorphisms
5.  Comparative mapping in the Fagaceae and beyond with EST-SSRs 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:153.
Genetic markers and linkage mapping are basic prerequisites for comparative genetic analyses, QTL detection and map-based cloning. A large number of mapping populations have been developed for oak, but few gene-based markers are available for constructing integrated genetic linkage maps and comparing gene order and QTL location across related species.
We developed a set of 573 expressed sequence tag-derived simple sequence repeats (EST-SSRs) and located 397 markers (EST-SSRs and genomic SSRs) on the 12 oak chromosomes (2n = 2x = 24) on the basis of Mendelian segregation patterns in 5 full-sib mapping pedigrees of two species: Quercus robur (pedunculate oak) and Quercus petraea (sessile oak). Consensus maps for the two species were constructed and aligned. They showed a high degree of macrosynteny between these two sympatric European oaks. We assessed the transferability of EST-SSRs to other Fagaceae genera and a subset of these markers was mapped in Castanea sativa, the European chestnut. Reasonably high levels of macrosynteny were observed between oak and chestnut. We also obtained diversity statistics for a subset of EST-SSRs, to support further population genetic analyses with gene-based markers. Finally, based on the orthologous relationships between the oak, Arabidopsis, grape, poplar, Medicago, and soybean genomes and the paralogous relationships between the 12 oak chromosomes, we propose an evolutionary scenario of the 12 oak chromosomes from the eudicot ancestral karyotype.
This study provides map locations for a large set of EST-SSRs in two oak species of recognized biological importance in natural ecosystems. This first step toward the construction of a gene-based linkage map will facilitate the assignment of future genome scaffolds to pseudo-chromosomes. This study also provides an indication of the potential utility of new gene-based markers for population genetics and comparative mapping within and beyond the Fagaceae.
PMCID: PMC3493355  PMID: 22931513
6.  Characterization of variable EST SSR markers for Norway spruce (Picea abies L.) 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:401.
Norway spruce is widely distributed across Europe and the predominant tree of the Alpine region. Fast growth and the fact that timber can be harvested cost-effectively in relatively young populations define its status as one of the economically most important tree species of Northern Europe. In this study, EST derived simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers were developed for the assessment of putative functional diversity in Austrian Norway spruce stands.
SSR sequences were identified by analyzing 14,022 publicly available EST sequences. Tri-nucleotide repeat motifs were most abundant in the data set followed by penta- and hexa-nucleotide repeats. Specific primer pairs were designed for sixty loci. Among these, 27 displayed polymorphism in a testing population of 16 P. abies individuals sampled across Austria and in an additional screening population of 96 P. abies individuals from two geographically distinct Austrian populations. Allele numbers per locus ranged from two to 17 with observed heterozygosity ranging from 0.075 to 0.99.
We have characterized variable EST SSR markers for Norway spruce detected in expressed genes. Due to their moderate to high degree of variability in the two tested screening populations, these newly developed SSR markers are well suited for the analysis of stress related functional variation present in Norway spruce populations.
PMCID: PMC3199268  PMID: 21992714
7.  High genetic diversity with moderate differentiation in Juniperus excelsa from Lebanon and the eastern Mediterranean region 
AoB Plants  2011;2011:plr003.
Juniperus excelsa constitutes a precious woody species of high ecological value able to grow up to Mountain treeline around the Mediterranean. Nuclear microsatellites were used to shed light on genetic diversity and differentiation of different Mediterranean populations. This information is essential in planning conservation strategies and reforestation programs.
Background and aims
Juniperus excelsa is an important woody species in the high mountain ecosystems of the eastern Mediterranean Basin where it constitutes the only coniferous species found at the tree line. The genetic diversity within and among J. excelsa populations of the eastern Mediterranean Basin is studied in the light of their historical fragmentation.
Nuclear microsatellites originally developed for Juniperus communis and J. przewalskii were tested on 320 individuals from 12 different populations originating from Lebanon, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece and the Ukraine.
Principal results
Among the 31 nuclear microsatellite primers tested, only three produced specific amplification products, with orthology confirmed by sequence analysis. They were then used for genetic diversity studies. The mean number of alleles and the expected heterozygosity means were Na=8.78 and He=0.76, respectively. The fixation index showed a significant deviation from Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium and an excess of homozygotes (FIS=0.27–0.56). A moderate level of genetic differentiation was observed among the populations (FST=0.075, P<0.001). The most differentiated populations corresponded to old vestigial stands found at the tree line (>2000 m) in Lebanon. These populations were differentiated from the other populations that are grouped into three sub-clusters.
High levels of genetic diversity were observed at species and population levels. The high level of differentiation in the high-mountain Lebanese populations reflects a long period of isolation or possibly a different origin. The admixture observed in other populations from Lebanon suggests a more recent separation from the Turkish–southeastern European populations.
PMCID: PMC3064508  PMID: 22476474
8.  Aquaporins in the wild: natural genetic diversity and selective pressure in the PIP gene family in five Neotropical tree species 
Tropical trees undergo severe stress through seasonal drought and flooding, and the ability of these species to respond may be a major factor in their survival in tropical ecosystems, particularly in relation to global climate change. Aquaporins are involved in the regulation of water flow and have been shown to be involved in drought response; they may therefore play a major adaptive role in these species. We describe genetic diversity in the PIP sub-family of the widespread gene family of Aquaporins in five Neotropical tree species covering four botanical families.
PIP Aquaporin subfamily genes were isolated, and their DNA sequence polymorphisms characterised in natural populations. Sequence data were analysed with statistical tests of standard neutral equilibrium and demographic scenarios simulated to compare with the observed results. Chloroplast SSRs were also used to test demographic transitions. Most gene fragments are highly polymorphic and display signatures of balancing selection or bottlenecks; chloroplast SSR markers have significant statistics that do not conform to expectations for population bottlenecks. Although not incompatible with a purely demographic scenario, the combination of all tests tends to favour a selective interpretation of extant gene diversity.
Tropical tree PIP genes may generally undergo balancing selection, which may maintain high levels of genetic diversity at these loci. Genetic variation at PIP genes may represent a response to variable environmental conditions.
PMCID: PMC2906476  PMID: 20587054
9.  Genetic and Phylogeographic Structures of the Symbiotic Fungus Tuber magnatum†  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2005;71(11):6584-6589.
The quality and market price of truffles vary with the species and, traditionally, the place of origin. The premium species Tuber magnatum produces white truffles and has a patchy distribution restricted to Italy and some Balkan areas. We used polymorphic microsatellites to evaluate 316 specimens grouped into 26 populations sampled across the species' geographic range to determine if natural populations of T. magnatum are genetically differentiated. We found that the southernmost and the northwesternmost populations were significantly differentiated from the rest of the populations. The simple sequence repeat data also could be used to make inferences about the postglacial T. magnatum expansion pattern. This study is the first to identify a genetic and phylogeographic structure in T. magnatum. The presence of a genetic structure can be of practical interest in tracing truffle populations according to their geographic origin for marketing strategies. Evidence for extensive outcrossing in field populations of T. magnatum also is provided for the first time.
PMCID: PMC1287743  PMID: 16269685
10.  Morphological and Molecular Diversity Among Italian Populations of Quercus petraea (Fagaceae) 
Annals of Botany  2003;91(6):707-716.
Quercus petraea (sessile oak) has a scattered distribution in southern and central Italy. The objective of this work was to evaluate the level and distribution of diversity in five Italian populations of Q. petraea by using morphological markers and hypervariable molecular markers such as microsatellites. Forty‐eight morphological traits and six nuclear and three plastid loci were scored for each population. Evidence for differentiation in both sets of traits was found, but patterns of differentiation of morphological traits did not coincide with microsatellite differentiation. Morphological variation was correlated with ecological conditions at the site of origin. Analysis of molecular variance revealed significant genetic variation among populations (P < 0·001), both at the nuclear and plastid levels. There was a slight, but significant, correlation between nuclear genetic distance and geographic distance. The relatively high genetic diversity in the populations analysed indicates that the maintenance of their evolutionary potential is possible if population sizes are maintained or increased. Low levels of haplotype diversity found within the small southernmost population (Piano Costantino) indicates that genetic erosion may increase the extinction risk for this population.
PMCID: PMC4242358  PMID: 12714368
Quercus petraea; morphological traits; microsatellites; adaptation; gene flow

Results 1-10 (10)