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1.  Evaluating the Effects of Non-Neutral Molecular Markers on Phylogeny Inference 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87428.
Nucleotide substitution models used in molecular phylogenetics do not account for nucleotide sequences evolving under selection, yet selection is rarely tested for. If non-neutral markers violate these models (i.e. non-independence of sites), it is expected that their reconstructed topologies be incongruent with those inferred from neutral ones and conclusions made from those phylogenies should be reexamined. Using rhodopsin as a phylogenetic marker has recently been called into question for exactly this reason. Rhodopsin is assumed to have evolved under strong positive selection for organisms that inhabit similar aquatic environments, making it unsuitable for the phylogenetics of aquatic organisms, but it is unclear what the effects of non-neutrality on phylogeny estimation are. To evaluate potential incongruence of neutral versus non-neutral markers, and the notion that rhodopsin should not be used in the molecular phylogenetics of fishes, a molecular dataset of 78 acanthomorph taxa and sequences from four nuclear, protein coding loci (including rhodopsin), were examined. Only one marker was found to be neutral while the remaining tests, for all other loci, rejected the null hypothesis of neutrality. To evaluate the possible effect(s) of positively versus negatively selected sites, the three non-neutral markers were analyzed to determine the presence of positively and negatively selected codons. To determine congruence in topology among ML trees inferred by individual neutral and non-neutral markers, as well as the combined (concatenated) dataset, tree, comparisons of distances among trees and hypothesis (topology) testing were carried out. Results of the tree distance metrics and topology testing support the notion that neutrality alone does not determine congruence in topology, and those data that are inferred to have evolved under selection should not necessarily be excluded. In addition, the number of sites inferred to have evolved under positive selection does not predict congruence with other markers or the topology inferred with the concatenated dataset.
PMCID: PMC3928119  PMID: 24558367
3.  Old-Growth Platycladus orientalis as a Resource for Reproductive Capacity and Genetic Diversity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56489.
Platycladus orientalis (Cupressaceae) is an old-growth tree species which distributed in the imperial parks and ancient temples in Beijing, China. We aim to (1) examine the genetic diversity and reproductive traits of old-growth and young populations of P. orientalis to ascertain whether the older populations contain a higher genetic diversity, more private alleles and a higher reproductive output compared with younger populations; (2) determine the relationships between the age of the population and the genetic diversity and reproductive traits; and (3) determine whether the imperial parks and ancient temples played an important role in maintaining the reproductive capacity and genetic diversity of Platycladus orientalis.
Samples from seven young (younger than 100 yrs.) and nine old-growth (older than 300 yrs.) artificial populations were collected. For comparison, three young and two old-growth natural populations were also sampled. Nine microsatellite loci were used to analyze genetic diversity parameters. These parameters were calculated using FSTAT version 2.9.3 and GenAlex v 6.41.
Important Findings
The old-growth artificial populations of P. orientalis have significantly higher genetic diversity than younger artificial populations and similar levels to those in extant natural populations. The imperial parks and ancient temples, which have protected these old-growth trees for centuries, have played an important role in maintaining the genetic diversity and reproductive capacity of this tree species.
PMCID: PMC3568081  PMID: 23409190
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.  Microsatellite Marker Analysis Reveals the Complex Phylogeographic History of Rhododendron ferrugineum (Ericaceae) in the Pyrenees 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92976.
Genetic variation within plant species is determined by a number of factors such as reproductive mode, breeding system, life history traits and climatic events. In alpine regions, plants experience heterogenic abiotic conditions that influence the population's genetic structure. The aim of this study was to investigate the genetic structure and phylogeographic history of the subalpine shrub Rhododendron ferrugineum across the Pyrenees and the links between the populations in the Pyrenees, the Alps and Jura Mountains. We used 27 microsatellite markers to genotype 645 samples from 29 Pyrenean populations, three from the Alps and one from the Jura Mountains. These data were used to estimate population genetics statistics such as allelic richness, observed heterozygosity, expected heterozygosity, fixation index, inbreeding coefficient and number of migrants. Genetic diversity was found to be higher in the Alps than in the Pyrenees suggesting colonization waves from the Alps to the Pyrenees. Two separate genetic lineages were found in both the Alps and Pyrenees, with a substructure of five genetic clusters in the Pyrenees where a loss of genetic diversity was noted. The strong differentiation among clusters is maintained by low gene flow across populations. Moreover, some populations showed higher genetic diversity than others and presented rare alleles that may indicate the presence of alpine refugia. Two lineages of R. ferrugineum have colonized the Pyrenees from the Alps. Then, during glaciation events R. ferrugineum survived in the Pyrenees in different refugia such as lowland refugia at the eastern part of the chain and nunataks at high elevations leading to a clustered genetic pattern.
PMCID: PMC3965482  PMID: 24667824
11.  Higher Levels of Multiple Paternities Increase Seedling Survival in the Long-Lived Tree Eucalyptus gracilis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e90478.
Studying associations between mating system parameters and fitness in natural populations of trees advances our understanding of how local environments affect seed quality, and thereby helps to predict when inbreeding or multiple paternities should impact on fitness. Indeed, for species that demonstrate inbreeding avoidance, multiple paternities (i.e. the number of male parents per half-sib family) should still vary and regulate fitness more than inbreeding – named here as the ‘constrained inbreeding hypothesis’. We test this hypothesis in Eucalyptus gracilis, a predominantly insect-pollinated tree. Fifty-eight open-pollinated progeny arrays were collected from trees in three populations. Progeny were planted in a reciprocal transplant trial. Fitness was measured by family establishment rates. We genotyped all trees and their progeny at eight microsatellite loci. Planting site had a strong effect on fitness, but seed provenance and seed provenance × planting site did not. Populations had comparable mating system parameters and were generally outcrossed, experienced low biparental inbreeding and high levels of multiple paternity. As predicted, seed families that had more multiple paternities also had higher fitness, and no fitness-inbreeding correlations were detected. Demonstrating that fitness was most affected by multiple paternities rather than inbreeding, we provide evidence supporting the constrained inbreeding hypothesis; i.e. that multiple paternity may impact on fitness over and above that of inbreeding, particularly for preferentially outcrossing trees at life stages beyond seed development.
PMCID: PMC3938745  PMID: 24587373
12.  Genetic Structure and Diversity of the Endangered Fir Tree of Lebanon (Abies cilicica Carr.): Implications for Conservation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e90086.
The threatened conifer Abies cilicica currently persists in Lebanon in geographically isolated forest patches. The impact of demographic and evolutionary processes on population genetic diversity and structure were assessed using 10 nuclear microsatellite loci. All remnant 15 local populations revealed a low genetic variation but a high recent effective population size. FST-based measures of population genetic differentiation revealed a low spatial genetic structure, but Bayesian analysis of population structure identified a significant Northeast-Southwest population structure. Populations showed significant but weak isolation-by-distance, indicating non-equilibrium conditions between dispersal and genetic drift. Bayesian assignment tests detected an asymmetric Northeast-Southwest migration involving some long-distance dispersal events. We suggest that the persistence and Northeast-Southwest geographic structure of Abies cilicica in Lebanon is the result of at least two demographic processes during its recent evolutionary history: (1) recent migration to currently marginal populations and (2) local persistence through altitudinal shifts along a mountainous topography. These results might help us better understand the mechanisms involved in the species response to expected climate change.
PMCID: PMC3937446  PMID: 24587219
13.  Genetic Differentiation and Genetic Diversity of Castanopsis (Fagaceae), the Dominant Tree Species in Japanese Broadleaved Evergreen Forests, Revealed by Analysis of EST-Associated Microsatellites 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87429.
The broadleaved evergreen forests of the East Asian warm temperate zone are characterised by their high biodiversity and endemism, and there is therefore a need to extend our understanding of its genetic diversity and phylogeographic patterns. Castanopsis (Fagaceae) is one of the dominant tree species in the broadleaved evergreen forests of Japan. In this study we investigate the genetic diversity, genetic structure and leaf epidermal morphology of 63 natural populations of C. sieboldii and C. cuspidata, using 32 Expressed Sequence Tag associated microsatellites. The overall genetic differentiation between populations was low (GST = 0.069 in C. sieboldii and GST = 0.057 in C. cuspidata). Neighbor-joining tree and Bayesian clustering analyses revealed that the populations of C. sieboldii and C. cuspidata were genetically clearly differentiated, a result which is consistent with the morphology of their epidermal cell layers. This suggests that C. sieboldii and C. cuspidata should be treated as independent species, although intermediate morphologies are often observed, especially at sites where the two species coexist. The higher level of genetic diversity observed in the Kyushu region (for both species) and the Ryukyu Islands (for C. sieboldii) is consistent with the available fossil pollen data for Castanopsis-type broadleaved evergreen trees during the Last Glacial Maximum and suggests the existence of refugia for Castanopsis forests in southern Japan. Within the C. sieboldii populations, Bayesian clustering analyses detected three clusters, in the western and eastern parts of the main islands and in the Ryukyu Islands. The west-east genetic differentiation observed for this species in the main islands, a pattern which is also found in several plant and animal species inhabiting Castanopsis forests in Japan, suggests that they have been isolated from each other in the western and eastern populations for an extended period of time, and may imply the existence of eastern refugia.
PMCID: PMC3907500  PMID: 24498103
14.  Assessing Intraspecific Variation in Effective Dispersal Along an Altitudinal Gradient: A Test in Two Mediterranean High-Mountain Plants 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87189.
Plant recruitment depends among other factors on environmental conditions and their variation at different spatial scales. Characterizing dispersal in contrasting environments may thus be necessary to understand natural intraspecific variation in the processes underlying recruitment. Silene ciliata and Armeria caespitosa are two representative species of cryophilic pastures above the tree line in Mediterranean high mountains. No explicit estimations of dispersal kernels have been made so far for these or other high-mountain plants. Such data could help to predict their dispersal and recruitment patterns in a context of changing environments under ongoing global warming.
We used an inverse modelling approach to analyse effective seed dispersal patterns in five populations of both Silene ciliata and Armeria caespitosa along an altitudinal gradient in Sierra de Guadarrama (Madrid, Spain). We considered four commonly employed two-dimensional seedling dispersal kernels exponential-power, 2Dt, WALD and log-normal.
Key Results
No single kernel function provided the best fit across all populations, although estimated mean dispersal distances were short (<1 m) in all cases. S. ciliata did not exhibit significant among-population variation in mean dispersal distance, whereas significant differences in mean dispersal distance were found in A. caespitosa. Both S. ciliata and A. caespitosa exhibited among-population variation in the fecundity parameter and lacked significant variation in kernel shape.
This study illustrates the complexity of intraspecific variation in the processes underlying recruitment, showing that effective dispersal kernels can remain relatively invariant across populations within particular species, even if there are strong variations in demographic structure and/or physical environment among populations, while the invariant dispersal assumption may not hold for other species in the same environment. Our results call for a case-by-case analysis in a wider range of plant taxa and environments to assess the prevalence and magnitude of intraspecific dispersal variation.
PMCID: PMC3906119  PMID: 24489867
15.  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
16.  Exploring Candidate Genes for Pericarp Russet Pigmentation of Sand Pear (Pyrus pyrifolia) via RNA-Seq Data in Two Genotypes Contrasting for Pericarp Color 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e83675.
Sand pear (Pyrus pyrifolia) russet pericarp is an important trait affecting both the quality and stress tolerance of fruits. This trait is controlled by a relative complex genetic process, with some fundamental biological questions such as how many and which genes are involved in the process remaining elusive. In this study, we explored differentially expressed genes between the russet- and green-pericarp offspring from the sand pear (Pyrus pyrifolia) cv. ‘Qingxiang’ × ‘Cuiguan’ F1 group by RNA-seq-based bulked segregant analysis (BSA). A total of 29,100 unigenes were identified and 206 of which showed significant differences in expression level (log2fold values>1) between the two types of pericarp pools. Gene Ontology (GO) analyses detected 123 unigenes in GO terms related to ‘cellular_component’ and ‘biological_process’, suggesting developmental and growth differentiations between the two types. GO categories associated with various aspects of ‘lipid metabolic processes’, ‘transport’, ‘response to stress’, ‘oxidation-reduction process’ and more were enriched with genes with divergent expressions between the two libraries. Detailed examination of a selected set of these categories revealed repressed expressions of candidate genes for suberin, cutin and wax biosynthesis in the russet pericarps.Genes encoding putative cinnamoyl-CoA reductase (CCR), cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase (CAD) and peroxidase (POD) that are involved in the lignin biosynthesis were suggested to be candidates for pigmentation of sand pear russet pericarps. Nine differentially expressed genes were analyzed for their expressions using qRT-PCR and the results were consistent with those obtained from Illumina RNA-sequencing. This study provides a comprehensive molecular biology insight into the sand pear pericarp pigmentation and appearance quality formation.
PMCID: PMC3882208  PMID: 24400075
17.  Population Structure of Barley Landrace Populations and Gene-Flow with Modern Varieties 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83891.
Landraces are heterogeneous plant varieties that are reproduced by farmers as populations that are subject to both artificial and natural selection. Landraces are distinguished by farmers due to their specific traits, and different farmers often grow different populations of the same landrace. We used simple sequence repeats (SSRs) to analyse 12 barley landrace populations from Sardinia from two collections spanning 10 years. We analysed the population structure, and compared the population diversity of the landraces that were collected at field level (population). We used a representative pool of barley varieties for diversity comparisons and to analyse the effects of gene flow from modern varieties. We found that the Sardinian landraces are a distinct gene pool from those of both two-row and six-row barley varieties. There is also a low, but significant, mean level and population-dependent level of introgression from the modern varieties into the Sardinian landraces. Moreover, we show that the Sardinian landraces have the same level of gene diversity as the representative sample of modern commercial varieties grown in Italy in the last decades, even within population level. Thus, these populations represent crucial sources of germplasm that will be useful for crop improvement and for population genomics studies and association mapping, to identify genes, loci and genome regions responsible for adaptive variations. Our data also suggest that landraces are a source of valuable germplasm for sustainable agriculture in the context of future climate change, and that in-situ conservation strategies based on farmer use can preserve the genetic identity of landraces while allowing adaptation to local environments.
PMCID: PMC3873955  PMID: 24386303
18.  Balanced Gene Losses, Duplications and Intensive Rearrangements Led to an Unusual Regularly Sized Genome in Arbutus unedo Chloroplasts 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79685.
Completely sequenced plastomes provide a valuable source of information about the duplication, loss, and transfer events of chloroplast genes and phylogenetic data for resolving relationships among major groups of plants. Moreover, they can also be useful for exploiting chloroplast genetic engineering technology. Ericales account for approximately six per cent of eudicot diversity with 11,545 species from which only three complete plastome sequences are currently available. With the aim of increasing the number of ericalean complete plastome sequences, and to open new perspectives in understanding Mediterranean plant adaptations, a genomic study on the basis of the complete chloroplast genome sequencing of Arbutus unedo and an updated phylogenomic analysis of Asteridae was implemented. The chloroplast genome of A. unedo shows extensive rearrangements but a medium size (150,897 nt) in comparison to most of angiosperms. A number of remarkable distinct features characterize the plastome of A. unedo: five-fold dismissing of the SSC region in relation to most angiosperms; complete loss or pseudogenization of a number of essential genes; duplication of the ndhH-D operon and its location within the two IRs; presence of large tandem repeats located near highly re-arranged regions and pseudogenes. All these features outline the primary evolutionary split between Ericaceae and other ericalean families. The newly sequenced plastome of A. unedo with the available asterid sequences allowed the resolution of some uncertainties in previous phylogenies of Asteridae.
PMCID: PMC3832540  PMID: 24260278
19.  Extensive Variation in the Density and Distribution of DNA Polymorphism in Sorghum Genomes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79192.
Sorghum genotypes currently used for grain production in the United States were developed from African landraces that were imported starting in the mid-to-late 19th century. Farmers and plant breeders selected genotypes for grain production with reduced plant height, early flowering, increased grain yield, adaptation to drought, and improved resistance to lodging, diseases and pests. DNA polymorphisms that distinguish three historically important grain sorghum genotypes, BTx623, BTx642 and Tx7000, were characterized by genome sequencing, genotyping by sequencing, genetic mapping, and pedigree-based haplotype analysis. The distribution and density of DNA polymorphisms in the sequenced genomes varied widely, in part because the lines were derived through breeding and selection from diverse Kafir, Durra, and Caudatum race accessions. Genomic DNA spanning dw1 (SBI-09) and dw3 (SBI-07) had identical haplotypes due to selection for reduced height. Lower SNP density in genes located in pericentromeric regions compared with genes located in euchromatic regions is consistent with background selection in these regions of low recombination. SNP density was higher in euchromatic DNA and varied >100-fold in contiguous intervals that spanned up to 300 Kbp. The localized variation in DNA polymorphism density occurred throughout euchromatic regions where recombination is elevated, however, polymorphism density was not correlated with gene density or DNA methylation. Overall, sorghum chromosomes contain distal euchromatic regions characterized by extensive, localized variation in DNA polymorphism density, and large pericentromeric regions of low gene density, diversity, and recombination.
PMCID: PMC3827139  PMID: 24265758
20.  Comparative Genome Analysis between Agrostis stolonifera and Members of the Pooideae Subfamily, including Brachypodium distachyon 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79425.
Creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera, allotetraploid 2n = 4x = 28) is one of the major cool-season turfgrasses. It is widely used on golf courses due to its tolerance to low mowing and aggressive growth habit. In this study, we investigated genome relationships of creeping bentgrass relative to the Triticeae (a consensus map of Triticum aestivum, T. tauschii, Hordeum vulgare, and H. spontaneum), oat, rice, and ryegrass maps using a common set of 229 EST-RFLP markers. The genome comparisons based on the RFLP markers revealed large-scale chromosomal rearrangements on different numbers of linkage groups (LGs) of creeping bentgrass relative to the Triticeae (3 LGs), oat (4 LGs), and rice (8 LGs). However, we detected no chromosomal rearrangement between creeping bentgrass and ryegrass, suggesting that these recently domesticated species might be closely related, despite their memberships to different Pooideae tribes. In addition, the genome of creeping bentgrass was compared with the complete genome sequence of Brachypodium distachyon in Pooideae subfamily using both sequences of the above-mentioned mapped EST-RFLP markers and sequences of 8,470 publicly available A. stolonifera ESTs (AgEST). We discovered large-scale chromosomal rearrangements on six LGs of creeping bentgrass relative to B. distachyon. Also, a total of 24 syntenic blocks based on 678 orthologus loci were identified between these two grass species. The EST orthologs can be utilized in further comparative mapping of Pooideae species. These results will be useful for genetic improvement of Agrostis species and will provide a better understanding of evolution within Pooideae species.
PMCID: PMC3823605  PMID: 24244501
21.  Species Distribution Models for Crop Pollination: A Modelling Framework Applied to Great Britain 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76308.
Insect pollination benefits over three quarters of the world's major crops. There is growing concern that observed declines in pollinators may impact on production and revenues from animal pollinated crops. Knowing the distribution of pollinators is therefore crucial for estimating their availability to pollinate crops; however, in general, we have an incomplete knowledge of where these pollinators occur. We propose a method to predict geographical patterns of pollination service to crops, novel in two elements: the use of pollinator records rather than expert knowledge to predict pollinator occurrence, and the inclusion of the managed pollinator supply. We integrated a maximum entropy species distribution model (SDM) with an existing pollination service model (PSM) to derive the availability of pollinators for crop pollination. We used nation-wide records of wild and managed pollinators (honey bees) as well as agricultural data from Great Britain. We first calibrated the SDM on a representative sample of bee and hoverfly crop pollinator species, evaluating the effects of different settings on model performance and on its capacity to identify the most important predictors. The importance of the different predictors was better resolved by SDM derived from simpler functions, with consistent results for bees and hoverflies. We then used the species distributions from the calibrated model to predict pollination service of wild and managed pollinators, using field beans as a test case. The PSM allowed us to spatially characterize the contribution of wild and managed pollinators and also identify areas potentially vulnerable to low pollination service provision, which can help direct local scale interventions. This approach can be extended to investigate geographical mismatches between crop pollination demand and the availability of pollinators, resulting from environmental change or policy scenarios.
PMCID: PMC3796555  PMID: 24155899
22.  Genetic Diversity and Molecular Evolution of Chinese Waxy Maize Germplasm 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66606.
Waxy maize (Zea mays L. var. certaina Kulesh), with many excellent characters in terms of starch composition and economic value, has grown in China for a long history and its production has increased dramatically in recent decades. However, the evolution and origin of waxy maize still remains unclear. We studied the genetic diversity of Chinese waxy maize including typical landraces and inbred lines by SSR analysis and the results showed a wide genetic diversity in the Chinese waxy maize germplasm. We analyzed the origin and evolution of waxy maize by sequencing 108 samples, and downloading 52 sequences from GenBank for the waxy locus in a number of accessions from genus Zea. A sharp reduction of nucleotide diversity and significant neutrality tests (Tajima’s D and Fu and Li’s F*) were observed at the waxy locus in Chinese waxy maize but not in nonglutinous maize. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that Chinese waxy maize originated from the cultivated flint maize and most of the modern waxy maize inbred lines showed a distinct independent origin and evolution process compared with the germplasm from Southwest China. The results indicated that an agronomic trait can be quickly improved to meet production demand by selection.
PMCID: PMC3688585  PMID: 23818949
23.  Rapidly Evolving Genes and Stress Adaptation of Two Desert Poplars, Populus euphratica and P. pruinosa 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66370.
Understanding which genes have evolved rapidly with the recent tree speciation in arid habitats can provide valuable insights into different adaptation mechanisms. We employed a comparative evolutionary analysis of expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from two desert poplars, Populus pruinosa and P. euphratica, which diverged in the recent past. Following an approach taken previously with P. euphratica, we conducted a deep transcriptomic analysis of P. pruinosa. To maximize representation of conditional transcripts, mRNA was obtained from living tissues of two types of callus and desert-grown trees. De novo assembly generated 114,866 high-quality unique sequences using Solexa sequence data. Following assembly we were able to identify, with high confidence, 2859 orthologous sequence pairs between the two species. Based on the ratio of nonsynonymous (Ka) to synonymous (Ks) substitutions, we identified a total of 84 (2.9%) ortholog pairs exhibiting rapid evolution with signs of strong selection (Ka/Ks>1). Genes homologous to these ortholog pairs in model species are mainly involved in ‘responses to stress’, ‘ubiquitin-dependent protein catabolic processes’, and ‘biological regulation’. Finally, we examined the expression patterns of candidate genes with rapid evolution in response to salt stress. Only one pair of orthologs up-regulated their expression in both species while three and four genes were found to up-regulated in P. pruinosa and in P. euphratica respectively. Our findings together suggest that the genes at the same category or network but with differentiated expressions or functions may have evolved rapidly during adaptive divergence of the two species to differentiated salty desert habitats.
PMCID: PMC3679102  PMID: 23776666
24.  Tertiary Origin and Pleistocene Diversification of Dragon Blood Tree (Dracaena cambodiana-Asparagaceae) Populations in the Asian Tropical Forests 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60102.
The origin of extraordinarily rich biodiversity in tropical forests is often attributed to evolution under stable climatic conditions over a long period or to climatic fluctuations during the recent Quaternary period. Here, we test these two hypotheses using Dracaena cambodiana, a plant species distributed in paleotropical forests.
We analyzed nucleotide sequence data of two chloroplast DNA (cpDNA: atpB-rbcL and trnD-trnT) regions and genotype data of six nuclear microsatellites from 15 populations (140 and 363 individuals, respectively) distributed in Indochina Peninsular and Hainan Island to infer the patterns of genetic diversity and phylogeographic structure. The population bottleneck and genetic drift were estimated based upon nuclear microsatellites data using the software programs BOTTLENECK and 2MOD. The lineage divergence times and past population dynamics based on cpDNA data were estimated using coalescent-based isolation-with-migration (IMa) and BEAST software programs.
A significant phylogeographic structure (NST = 0.876, GST = 0.796, FST-SSR = 0.329, RST = 0.449; NST>GST, RST>FST-SSR, P<0.05) and genetic differentiation among populations were detected. Bottleneck analyses and Bayesian skyline plot suggested recent population reduction. The cpDNA haplotype network revealed the ancestral populations from the southern Indochina region expanded to northward. The most recent ancestor divergence time of D. cambodiana dated back to the Tertiary era and rapid diversification of terminal lineages corresponded to the Quaternary period.
The results indicated that the present distribution of genetic diversity in D. cambodiana was an outcome of Tertiary dispersal and rapid divergence during the Quaternary period under limited gene flow influenced by the uplift of Himalayan-Tibetan Plateau and Quaternary climatic fluctuations respectively. Evolutionary processes, such as extinction-recolonization during the Pleistocene may have contributed to the fast diversification in D. cambodiana.
PMCID: PMC3613351  PMID: 23560070
25.  Conservation Priorities for Prunus africana Defined with the Aid of Spatial Analysis of Genetic Data and Climatic Variables 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59987.
Conservation priorities for Prunus africana, a tree species found across Afromontane regions, which is of great commercial interest internationally and of local value for rural communities, were defined with the aid of spatial analyses applied to a set of georeferenced molecular marker data (chloroplast and nuclear microsatellites) from 32 populations in 9 African countries. Two approaches for the selection of priority populations for conservation were used, differing in the way they optimize representation of intra-specific diversity of P. africana across a minimum number of populations. The first method (S1) was aimed at maximizing genetic diversity of the conservation units and their distinctiveness with regard to climatic conditions, the second method (S2) at optimizing representativeness of the genetic diversity found throughout the species’ range. Populations in East African countries (especially Kenya and Tanzania) were found to be of great conservation value, as suggested by previous findings. These populations are complemented by those in Madagascar and Cameroon. The combination of the two methods for prioritization led to the identification of a set of 6 priority populations. The potential distribution of P. africana was then modeled based on a dataset of 1,500 georeferenced observations. This enabled an assessment of whether the priority populations identified are exposed to threats from agricultural expansion and climate change, and whether they are located within the boundaries of protected areas. The range of the species has been affected by past climate change and the modeled distribution of P. africana indicates that the species is likely to be negatively affected in future, with an expected decrease in distribution by 2050. Based on these insights, further research at the regional and national scale is recommended, in order to strengthen P. africana conservation efforts.
PMCID: PMC3609728  PMID: 23544118

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