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1.  Increased genetic divergence between two closely related fir species in areas of range overlap 
Ecology and Evolution  2014;4(7):1019-1029.
Because of introgressive hybridization, closely related species can be more similar to each other in areas of range overlap (parapatry or sympatry) than in areas where they are geographically isolated from each other (allopatry). Here, we report the reverse situation based on nuclear genetic divergence between two fir species, Abies chensiensis and Abies fargesii, in China, at sites where they are parapatric relative to where they are allopatric. We examined genetic divergence across 126 amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers in a set of 172 individuals sampled from both allopatric and parapatric populations of the two species. Our analyses demonstrated that AFLP divergence was much greater between the species when comparisons were made between parapatric populations than between allopatric populations. We suggest that selection in parapatry may have largely contributed to this increased divergence.
PMCID: PMC3997318  PMID: 24772279
Abies chensiensis; Abies fargesii; allopatry; genetic divergence; natural selection; parapatry
2.  Molecular Population Genetics of Elicitor-Induced Resistance Genes in European Aspen (Populus tremula L., Salicaceae) 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24867.
Owing to their long life span and ecological dominance in many communities, forest trees are subject to attack from a diverse array of herbivores throughout their range, and have therefore developed a large number of both constitutive and inducible defenses. We used molecular population genetics methods to examine the evolution of eight genes in European aspen, Populus tremula, that are all associated with defensive responses against pests and/or pathogens, and have earlier been shown to become strongly up-regulated in poplars as a response to wounding and insect herbivory. Our results show that the majority of these defense genes show patterns of intraspecific polymorphism and site-frequency spectra that are consistent with a neutral model of evolution. However, two of the genes, both belonging to a small gene family of polyphenol oxidases, show multiple deviations from the neutral model. The gene PPO1 has a 600 bp region with a highly elevated KA/KS ratio and reduced synonymous diversity. PPO1 also shows a skew toward intermediate frequency variants in the SFS, and a pronounced fixation of non-synonymous mutations, all pointing to the fact that PPO1 has been subjected to recurrent selective sweeps. The gene PPO2 shows a marked excess of high frequency, derived variants and shows many of the same trends as PPO1 does, even though the pattern is less pronounced, suggesting that PPO2 might have been the target of a recent selective sweep. Our results supports data from both Populus and other species which have found that the the majority of defense-associated genes show few signs of selection but that a number of genes involved in mediating defense against herbivores show signs of adaptive evolution.
PMCID: PMC3176232  PMID: 21949772
3.  Pacific Salmon and the Coalescent Effective Population Size 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e13019.
Pacific salmon include several species that are both commercially important and endangered. Understanding the causes of loss in genetic variation is essential for designing better conservation strategies. Here we use a coalescent approach to analyze a model of the complex life history of salmon, and derive the coalescent effective population (CES). With the aid of Kronecker products and a convergence theorem for Markov chains with two time scales, we derive a simple formula for the CES and thereby establish its existence. Our results may be used to address important questions regarding salmon biology, in particular about the loss of genetic variation. To illustrate the utility of our approach, we consider the effects of fluctuations in population size over time. Our analysis enables the application of several tools of coalescent theory to the case of salmon.
PMCID: PMC2946355  PMID: 20885947
4.  Molecular Diversification in the Quorum-Sensing System of Vibrio cholerae: Role of Natural Selection in the Emergence of Pandemic Strains▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2009;75(11):3808-3812.
Two haplotypes of the Vibrio cholerae quorum-sensing system regulator hapR are described: hapR1, common among nonpandemic, non-O1, non-O139 strains, and hapR2, associated with pandemic O1 and O139 and epidemic O37 V. cholerae strains. The hapR2 has evolved under strong natural selection, implying that its fixation was influenced by conditions that led to cholera pandemics.
PMCID: PMC2687267  PMID: 19346342
5.  Mutational Biases and Selective Forces Shaping the Structure of Arabidopsis Genes 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(7):e6356.
Recently features of gene expression profiles have been associated with structural parameters of gene sequences in organisms representing a diverse set of taxa. The emerging picture indicates that natural selection, mediated by gene expression profiles, has a significant role in determining genic structures. However the current situation is less clear in plants as the available data indicates that the effect of natural selection mediated by gene expression is very weak. Moreover, the direction of the patterns in plants appears to contradict those observed in animal genomes. In the present work we analized expression data for >18000 Arabidopsis genes retrieved from public datasets obtained with different technologies (MPSS and high density chip arrays) and compared them with gene parameters. Our results show that the impact of natural selection mediated by expression on genes sequences is significant and distinguishable from the effects of regional mutational biases. In addition, we provide evidence that the level and the breadth of gene expression are related in opposite ways to many structural parameters of gene sequences. Higher levels of expression abundance are associated with smaller transcripts, consistent with the need to reduce costs of both transcription and translation. Expression breadth, however, shows a contrasting pattern, i.e. longer genes have higher breadth of expression, possibly to ensure those structural features associated with gene plasticity. Based on these results, we propose that the specific balance between these two selective forces play a significant role in shaping the structure of Arabidopsis genes.
PMCID: PMC2712092  PMID: 19633720
6.  Molecular evolution of synonymous codon usage in Populus 
Evolution of synonymous codon usage is thought to be determined by a balance between mutation, genetic drift and natural selection on translational efficiency. However, natural selection on codon usage is considered to be a weak evolutionary force and selection on codon usage is expected to be strongest in species with large effective population sizes.
I examined the evolution of synonymous codons using EST data from five species of Populus. Data on relative synonymous codon usage in genes with high and low gene expression were used to identify 25 codons from 18 different amino acids that were deemed to be preferred codons across all five species. All five species show significant correlations between codon bias and gene expression, independent of base composition, thus indicating that translational selection has shaped synonymous codon usage. Using a set of 158 orthologous genes I detected an excess of unpreferred to preferred (U → P) mutations in two lineages, P. tremula and P. deltoides. Maximum likelihood estimates of the strength of selection acting on synonymous codons was also significantly greater than zero in P. tremula, with the ML estimate of 4Nes = 0.720.
The data is consistent with weak selection on preferred codons in all five species. There is also evidence suggesting that selection on synonymous codons has increased in P. tremula. Although the reasons for the increase in selection on codon usage in the P. tremula lineage are not clear, one possible explanation is an increase in the effective population size in P. tremula.
PMCID: PMC2586637  PMID: 18983655
7.  Patterns of Nucleotide Diversity at Photoperiod Related Genes in Norway Spruce [Picea abies (L.) Karst.] 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e95306.
The ability of plants to track seasonal changes is largely dependent on genes assigned to the photoperiod pathway, and variation in those genes is thereby important for adaptation to local day length conditions. Extensive physiological data in several temperate conifer species suggest that populations are adapted to local light conditions, but data on the genes underlying this adaptation are more limited. Here we present nucleotide diversity data from 19 genes putatively involved in photoperiodic response in Norway spruce (Picea abies). Based on similarity to model plants the genes were grouped into three categories according to their presumed position in the photoperiod pathway: photoreceptors, circadian clock genes, and downstream targets. An HKA (Hudson, Kreitman and Aquade) test showed a significant excess of diversity at photoreceptor genes, but no departure from neutrality at circadian genes and downstream targets. Departures from neutrality were also tested with Tajima's D and Fay and Wu's H statistics under three demographic scenarios: the standard neutral model, a population expansion model, and a more complex population split model. Only one gene, the circadian clock gene PaPRR3 with a highly positive Tajima's D value, deviates significantly from all tested demographic scenarios. As the PaPRR3 gene harbours multiple non-synonymous variants it appears as an excellent candidate gene for control of photoperiod response in Norway spruce.
PMCID: PMC4014479  PMID: 24810273
8.  Genotyping-by-Sequencing for Populus Population Genomics: An Assessment of Genome Sampling Patterns and Filtering Approaches 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95292.
Continuing advances in nucleotide sequencing technology are inspiring a suite of genomic approaches in studies of natural populations. Researchers are faced with data management and analytical scales that are increasing by orders of magnitude. With such dramatic advances comes a need to understand biases and error rates, which can be propagated and magnified in large-scale data acquisition and processing. Here we assess genomic sampling biases and the effects of various population-level data filtering strategies in a genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) protocol. We focus on data from two species of Populus, because this genus has a relatively small genome and is emerging as a target for population genomic studies. We estimate the proportions and patterns of genomic sampling by examining the Populus trichocarpa genome (Nisqually-1), and demonstrate a pronounced bias towards coding regions when using the methylation-sensitive ApeKI restriction enzyme in this species. Using population-level data from a closely related species (P. tremuloides), we also investigate various approaches for filtering GBS data to retain high-depth, informative SNPs that can be used for population genetic analyses. We find a data filter that includes the designation of ambiguous alleles resulted in metrics of population structure and Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium that were most consistent with previous studies of the same populations based on other genetic markers. Analyses of the filtered data (27,910 SNPs) also resulted in patterns of heterozygosity and population structure similar to a previous study using microsatellites. Our application demonstrates that technically and analytically simple approaches can readily be developed for population genomics of natural populations.
PMCID: PMC3991623  PMID: 24748384
9.  Insight into the Genetic Components of Community Genetics: QTL Mapping of Insect Association in a Fast-Growing Forest Tree 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79925.
Identifying genetic sequences underlying insect associations on forest trees will improve the understanding of community genetics on a broad scale. We tested for genomic regions associated with insects in hybrid poplar using quantitative trait loci (QTL) analyses conducted on data from a common garden experiment. The F2 offspring of a hybrid poplar (Populus trichocarpa x P. deltoides) cross were assessed for seven categories of insect leaf damage at two time points, June and August. Positive and negative correlations were detected among damage categories and between sampling times. For example, sap suckers on leaves in June were positively correlated with sap suckers on leaves (P<0.001) but negatively correlated with skeletonizer damage (P<0.01) in August. The seven forms of leaf damage were used as a proxy for seven functional groups of insect species. Significant variation in insect association occurred among the hybrid offspring, including transgressive segregation of susceptibility to damage. NMDS analyses revealed significant variation and modest broad-sense heritability in insect community structure among genets. QTL analyses identified 14 genomic regions across 9 linkage groups that correlated with insect association. We used three genomics tools to test for putative mechanisms underlying the QTL. First, shikimate-phenylpropanoid pathway genes co-located to 9 of the 13 QTL tested, consistent with the role of phenolic glycosides as defensive compounds. Second, two insect association QTL corresponded to genomic hotspots for leaf trait QTL as identified in previous studies, indicating that, in addition to biochemical attributes, leaf morphology may influence insect preference. Third, network analyses identified categories of gene models over-represented in QTL for certain damage types, providing direction for future functional studies. These results provide insight into the genetic components involved in insect community structure in a fast-growing forest tree.
PMCID: PMC3833894  PMID: 24260320
10.  Within-Population Genetic Structure in Beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) Stands Characterized by Different Disturbance Histories: Does Forest Management Simplify Population Substructure? 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73391.
The fine-scale assessment of both spatially and non-spatially distributed genetic variation is crucial to preserve forest genetic resources through appropriate forest management. Cryptic within-population genetic structure may be more common than previously thought in forest tree populations, which has strong implications for the potential of forests to adapt to environmental change. The present study was aimed at comparing within-population genetic structure in European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) plots experiencing different disturbance levels. Five plot pairs made up by disturbed and undisturbed plots having the same biogeographic history were sampled throughout Europe. Overall, 1298 individuals were analyzed using four highly polymorphic nuclear microsatellite markers (SSRs). Bayesian clustering within plots identified 3 to 11 genetic clusters (within-plot θST ranged from 0.025 to 0.124). The proportion of within-population genetic variation due to genetic substructuring (FCluPlot = 0.067) was higher than the differentiation among the 10 plots (FPlotTot = 0.045). Focusing on the comparison between managed and unmanaged plots, disturbance mostly explains differences in the complexity of within-population genetic structure, determining a reduction of the number of genetic clusters present in a standardized area. Our results show that: i) genetic substructuring needs to be investigated when studying the within-population genetic structure in forest tree populations, and ii) indices describing subtle characteristics of the within-population genetic structure are good candidates for providing early signals of the consequences of forest management, and of disturbance events in general.
PMCID: PMC3764177  PMID: 24039930
11.  The Use of Combining Ability Analysis to Identify Elite Parents for Artemisia annua F1 Hybrid Production 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61989.
Artemisia annua is an important medicinal crop used for the production of the anti-malarial compound artemisinin. In order to assist in the production of affordable high quality artemisinin we have carried out an A. annua breeding programme aimed at improving artemisinin concentration and biomass. Here we report on a combining ability analysis of a diallel cross to identify robust parental lines for hybrid breeding. The parental lines were selected based on a range of phenotypic traits to encourage heterosis. The general combining ability (GCA) values for the diallel parental lines correlated to the positive alleles of quantitative trait loci (QTL) in the same parents indicating the presence of beneficial alleles that contribute to parental performance. Hybrids generated from crossing specific parental lines with good GCA were identified as having an increase in both artemisinin concentration and biomass when grown either in glasshouse or experimental field trials and compared to controls. This study demonstrates that combining ability as determined by a diallel cross can be used to identify elite parents for the production of improved A. annua hybrids. Furthermore, the selection of material for breeding using this approach was found to be consistent with our QTL-based molecular breeding approach.
PMCID: PMC3633910  PMID: 23626762
12.  The UDP-Glucuronate Decarboxylase Gene Family in Populus: Structure, Expression, and Association Genetics 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60880.
In woody crop plants, the oligosaccharide components of the cell wall are essential for important traits such as bioenergy content, growth, and structural wood properties. UDP-glucuronate decarboxylase (UXS) is a key enzyme in the synthesis of UDP-xylose for the formation of xylans during cell wall biosynthesis. Here, we isolated a multigene family of seven members (PtUXS1-7) encoding UXS from Populus tomentosa, the first investigation of UXSs in a tree species. Analysis of gene structure and phylogeny showed that the PtUXS family could be divided into three groups (PtUXS1/4, PtUXS2/5, and PtUXS3/6/7), consistent with the tissue-specific expression patterns of each PtUXS. We further evaluated the functional consequences of nucleotide polymorphisms in PtUXS1. In total, 243 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were identified, with a high frequency of SNPs (1/18 bp) and nucleotide diversity (πT = 0.01033, θw = 0.01280). Linkage disequilibrium (LD) analysis showed that LD did not extend over the entire gene (r2<0.1, P<0.001, within 700 bp). SNP- and haplotype-based association analysis showed that nine SNPs (Q <0.10) and 12 haplotypes (P<0.05) were significantly associated with growth and wood property traits in the association population (426 individuals), with 2.70% to 12.37% of the phenotypic variation explained. Four significant single-marker associations (Q <0.10) were validated in a linkage mapping population of 1200 individuals. Also, RNA transcript accumulation varies among genotypic classes of SNP10 was further confirmed in the association population. This is the first comprehensive study of the UXS gene family in woody plants, and lays the foundation for genetic improvements of wood properties and growth in trees using genetic engineering or marker-assisted breeding.
PMCID: PMC3629030  PMID: 23613749
13.  Signatures of Demography and Recombination at Coding Genes in Naturally-Distributed Populations of Arabidopsis Lyrata Subsp. Petraea 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58916.
Demography impacts the observed standing level of genetic diversity present in populations. Distinguishing the relative impacts of demography from selection requires a baseline of expressed gene variation in naturally occurring populations. Six nuclear genes were sequenced to estimate the patterns and levels of genetic diversity in natural Arabidopsis lyrata subsp. petraea populations that differ in demographic histories since the Pleistocene. As expected, northern European populations have genetic signatures of a strong population bottleneck likely due to glaciation during the Pleistocene. Levels of diversity in the northern populations are about half of that in central European populations. Bayesian estimates of historical population size changes indicate that central European populations also have signatures of population size change since the last glacial maxima, suggesting that these populations are not as stable as previously thought. Time since divergence amongst northern European populations is higher than amongst central European populations, suggesting that the northern European populations were established before the Pleistocene and survived glaciation in small separated refugia. Estimates of demography based on expressed genes are complementary to estimates based on microsatellites and transposable elements, elucidating temporal shifts in population dynamics and confirming the importance of marker selection for tests of demography.
PMCID: PMC3595216  PMID: 23554957
14.  A Novel W1999S Mutation and Non-Target Site Resistance Impact on Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase Inhibiting Herbicides to Varying Degrees in a UK Lolium multiflorum Population 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e58012.
Acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACCase) inhibiting herbicides are important products for the post-emergence control of grass weed species in small grain cereal crops. However, the appearance of resistance to ACCase herbicides over time has resulted in limited options for effective weed control of key species such as Lolium spp. In this study, we have used an integrated biological and molecular biology approach to investigate the mechanism of resistance to ACCase herbicides in a Lolium multiflorum Lam. from the UK (UK21).
Methodology/Principal Findings
The study revealed a novel tryptophan to serine mutation at ACCase codon position 1999 impacting on ACCase inhibiting herbicides to varying degrees. The W1999S mutation confers dominant resistance to pinoxaden and partially recessive resistance to cycloxydim and sethoxydim. On the other hand, plants containing the W1999S mutation were sensitive to clethodim and tepraloxydim. Additionally population UK21 is characterised by other resistance mechanisms, very likely non non-target site based, affecting several aryloxyphenoxyproprionate (FOP) herbicides but not the practical field rate of pinoxaden. The positive identification of wild type tryptophan and mutant serine alleles at ACCase position 1999 could be readily achieved with an original DNA based derived cleaved amplified polymorphic sequence (dCAPS) assay that uses the same PCR product but two different enzymes for positively identifying the wild type tryptophan and mutant serine alleles identified here.
This paper highlights intrinsic differences between ACCase inhibiting herbicides that could be exploited for controlling ryegrass populations such as UK21 characterised by compound-specific target site and non-target site resistance.
PMCID: PMC3585232  PMID: 23469130
15.  Allelic Variation in PtGA20Ox Associates with Growth and Wood Properties in Populus spp 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e53116.
Populus tomentosa is an economically important tree crop that produces wood for lumber, pulp, paper, and biofuels. Wood quality traits are likely to be strongly affected by the plant hormone gibberellic acid (GA), which regulates growth. GA20Ox encodes one of the major regulatory enzymes of GA biosynthesis and may therefore play a large role in growth and wood quality. Here, linkage disequilibrium (LD) studies were used to identify significant associations between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within PtGA20Ox and growth and wood-quality traits of P. tomentosa. We isolated a full-length GA20Ox cDNA from Populus tomentosa by reverse transcription (RT)-PCR; this 1401 bp cDNA clone had an open reading frame of 1158 bp and encoded a protein of 385 amino acids. PtGA20Ox transcripts were maximally expressed in the mature xylem of vascular tissues, suggesting that PtGA20Ox is highly expressed and specifically associated with secondary xylem formation. Resequencing the PtGA20Ox locus of 36 individuals identified 55 SNPs, and the frequency of SNPs was 1/31 bp. The 29 most common SNPs (frequency>0.1) were genotyped in an association population (426 individuals) that was also phenotyped for key growth and wood quality traits. LD did not extend over the entire gene (r2<0.1, within 500 bp), demonstrating that a candidate-gene-based LD approach may the best way to understand the molecular basis underlying quantitative variation in this species. SNP- and haplotype-based association analyses indicated that four SNPs (false discovery rate Q<0.05) and 14 haplotypes (P<0.05) were significantly associated with growth and wood properties. The phenotypic variance explained by each SNP ranged from 3.44% to 14.47%. The SNP markers identified in this study can be applied to breeding programs for the improvement of growth and wood-property traits by marker-assisted selection.
PMCID: PMC3534044  PMID: 23300875
16.  The Genetic Content of Chromosomal Inversions across a Wide Latitudinal Gradient 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51625.
There is increasing evidence regarding the role of chromosomal inversions in relevant biological processes such as local adaptation and speciation. A classic example of the adaptive role of chromosomal polymorphisms is given by the clines of inversion frequencies in Drosophila subobscura, repeatable across continents. Nevertheless, not much is known about the molecular variation associated with these polymorphisms. We characterized the genetic content of ca. 600 individuals from nine European populations following a latitudinal gradient by analysing 19 microsatellite loci from two autosomes (J and U) and the sex chromosome (A), taking into account their chromosomal inversions. Our results clearly demonstrate the molecular genetic uniformity within a given chromosomal inversion across a large latitudinal gradient, particularly from Groningen (Netherlands) in the north to Málaga (Spain) in the south, experiencing highly diverse environmental conditions. This low genetic differentiation within the same gene arrangement across the nine European populations is consistent with the local adaptation hypothesis for th evolutionof chromosomal polymorphisms. We also show the effective role of chromosomal inversions in maintaining different genetic pools within these inverted genomic regions even in the presence of high gene flow. Inversions represent thus an important barrier to gene flux and can help maintain specific allelic combinations with positive effects on fitness. Consistent patterns of microsatellite allele-inversion linkage disequilibrium particularly in loci within inversions were also observed. Finally, we identified areas within inversions presenting clinal variation that might be under selection.
PMCID: PMC3525579  PMID: 23272126
17.  Phylogeny-Based Comparative Methods Question the Adaptive Nature of Sporophytic Specializations in Mosses 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e48268.
Adaptive evolution has often been proposed to explain correlations between habitats and certain phenotypes. In mosses, a high frequency of species with specialized sporophytic traits in exposed or epiphytic habitats was, already 100 years ago, suggested as due to adaptation. We tested this hypothesis by contrasting phylogenetic and morphological data from two moss families, Neckeraceae and Lembophyllaceae, both of which show parallel shifts to a specialized morphology and to exposed epiphytic or epilithic habitats. Phylogeny-based tests for correlated evolution revealed that evolution of four sporophytic traits is correlated with a habitat shift. For three of them, evolutionary rates of dual character-state changes suggest that habitat shifts appear prior to changes in morphology. This suggests that they could have evolved as adaptations to new habitats. Regarding the fourth correlated trait the specialized morphology had already evolved before the habitat shift. In addition, several other specialized “epiphytic” traits show no correlation with a habitat shift. Besides adaptive diversification, other processes thus also affect the match between phenotype and environment. Several potential factors such as complex genetic and developmental pathways yielding the same phenotypes, differences in strength of selection, or constraints in phenotypic evolution may lead to an inability of phylogeny-based comparative methods to detect potential adaptations.
PMCID: PMC3484137  PMID: 23118967
18.  Genetical Genomics Identifies the Genetic Architecture for Growth and Weevil Resistance in Spruce 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e44397.
In plants, relationships between resistance to herbivorous insect pests and growth are typically controlled by complex interactions between genetically correlated traits. These relationships often result in tradeoffs in phenotypic expression. In this study we used genetical genomics to elucidate genetic relationships between tree growth and resistance to white pine terminal weevil (Pissodes strobi Peck.) in a pedigree population of interior spruce (Picea glauca, P. engelmannii and their hybrids) that was growing at Vernon, B.C. and segregating for weevil resistance. Genetical genomics uses genetic perturbations caused by allelic segregation in pedigrees to co-locate quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for gene expression and quantitative traits. Bark tissue of apical leaders from 188 trees was assayed for gene expression using a 21.8K spruce EST-spotted microarray; the same individuals were genotyped for 384 SNP markers for the genetic map. Many of the expression QTLs (eQTL) co-localized with resistance trait QTLs. For a composite resistance phenotype of six attack and oviposition traits, 149 positional candidate genes were identified. Resistance and growth QTLs also overlapped with eQTL hotspots along the genome suggesting that: 1) genetic pleiotropy of resistance and growth traits in interior spruce was substantial, and 2) master regulatory genes were important for weevil resistance in spruce. These results will enable future work on functional genetic studies of insect resistance in spruce, and provide valuable information about candidate genes for genetic improvement of spruce.
PMCID: PMC3433439  PMID: 22973444
19.  A Single Locus Is Responsible for Salinity Tolerance in a Chinese Landrace Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43079.
Salinity and waterlogging are two major abiotic stresses severely limiting barley production. The lack of a reliable screening method makes it very hard to improve the tolerance through breeding programs.
This work used 188 DH lines from a cross between a Chinese landrace variety, TX9425 (waterlogging and salinity tolerant), and a Japanese malting barley, Naso Nijo (waterlogging and salinity sensitive), to identify QTLs associated with the tolerance.
Four QTLs were found for waterlogging tolerance. The salinity tolerance was evaluated with both a hydroponic system and in potting mixture. In the trial with potting mixture, only one major QTL was identified to associate with salinity tolerance. This QTL explained nearly 50% of the phenotypic variation, which makes it possible for further fine mapping and cloning of the gene. This QTL was also identified in the hydroponic experiment for different salt-related traits. The position of this QTL was located at a similar position to one of the major QTLs for waterlogging tolerance, indicating the possibility of similar mechanisms controlling both waterlogging and salinity tolerance.
The markers associated with the QTL provided a unique opportunity in breeding programs for selection of salinity and waterlogging tolerance.
PMCID: PMC3423432  PMID: 22916210
20.  Broad Resistance to ACCase Inhibiting Herbicides in a Ryegrass Population Is Due Only to a Cysteine to Arginine Mutation in the Target Enzyme 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39759.
The design of sustainable weed management strategies requires a good understanding of the mechanisms by which weeds evolve resistance to herbicides. Here we have conducted a study on the mechanism of resistance to ACCase inhibiting herbicides in a Lolium multiflorum population (RG3) from the UK.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Analysis of plant phenotypes and genotypes showed that all the RG3 plants (72%) that contained the cysteine to arginine mutation at ACCase codon position 2088 were resistant to ACCase inhibiting herbicides. Whole plant dose response tests on predetermined wild and mutant 2088 genotypes from RG3 and a standard sensitive population indicated that the C2088R mutation is the only factor conferring resistance to all ten ACCase herbicides tested. The associated resistance indices ranged from 13 for clethodim to over 358 for diclofop-methyl. Clethodim, the most potent herbicide was significantly affected even when applied on small mutant plants at the peri-emergence and one leaf stages.
This study establishes the clear and unambiguous importance of the C2088R target site mutation in conferring broad resistance to ten commonly used ACCase inhibiting herbicides. It also demonstrates that low levels “creeping”, multigenic, non target site resistance, is not always selected before single gene target site resistance appears in grass weed populations subjected to herbicide selection pressure.
PMCID: PMC3387263  PMID: 22768118
21.  Genetic Variation in Functional Traits Influences Arthropod Community Composition in Aspen (Populus tremula L.) 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37679.
We conducted a study of natural variation in functional leaf traits and herbivory in 116 clones of European aspen, Populus tremula L., the Swedish Aspen (SwAsp) collection, originating from ten degrees of latitude across Sweden and grown in a common garden. In surveys of phytophagous arthropods over two years, we found the aspen canopy supports nearly 100 morphospecies. We identified significant broad-sense heritability of plant functional traits, basic plant defence chemistry, and arthropod community traits. The majority of arthropods were specialists, those coevolved with P. tremula to tolerate and even utilize leaf defence compounds. Arthropod abundance and richness were more closely related to plant growth rates than general chemical defences and relationships were identified between the arthropod community and stem growth, leaf and petiole morphology, anthocyanins, and condensed tannins. Heritable genetic variation in plant traits in young aspen was found to structure arthropod community; however no single trait drives the preferences of arthropod folivores among young aspen genotypes. The influence of natural variation in plant traits on the arthropod community indicates the importance of maintaining genetic variation in wild trees as keystone species for biodiversity. It further suggests that aspen can be a resource for the study of mechanisms of natural resistance to herbivores.
PMCID: PMC3360762  PMID: 22662190
22.  Genome-Wide Transcription Analysis of Clinal Genetic Variation in Drosophila 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e34620.
Clinal variation in quantitative traits is widespread, but its genetic basis awaits identification. Drosophila melanogaster shows adaptive, clinal variation in traits such as body size along latitudinal gradients on multiple continents. To investigate genome wide transcription differentiation between North and South that might contribute to the clinal phenotypic variation, we compared RNA expression patterns during development of D. melanogaster from tropical northern and temperate southern populations using whole genome tiling arrays. We found that genes that were differentially expressed between the cline ends were generally associated with metabolism and growth, and experimental alteration of expression of a sample of them generally resulted in altered body size in the predicted direction, sometimes significantly so. We further identified the serpent (srp) transcription factor binding sites to be enriched near genes up-regulated in expression in the south. Analysis of clinal populations revealed a significant cline in the expression level of srp. Experimental over-expression of srp increased body size, as predicted from its clinal expression pattern, suggesting that it may be involved in regulating adaptive clinal variation in Drosophila. This study identified a handful of genes that contributed to clinal phenotypic variation through altered gene expression level, yet misexpression of individual gene led to modest body size change.
PMCID: PMC3326059  PMID: 22514645
23.  No Evolutionary Shift in the Mating System of North American Ambrosia artemisiifolia (Asteraceae) Following Its Introduction to China 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31935.
The mating system plays a key role during the process of plant invasion. Contemporary evolution of uniparental reproduction (selfing or asexuality) can relieve the challenges of mate limitation in colonizing populations by providing reproductive assurance. Here we examined aspects of the genetics of colonization in Ambrosia artemisiifolia, a North American native that is invasive in China. This species has been found to possess a strong self-incompatibility system and have high outcrossing rates in North America and we examined whether there has been an evolutionary shift towards the dependence on selfing in the introduced range. Specifically, we estimated outcrossing rates in one native and five invasive populations and compared levels of genetic diversity between North America and China. Based on six microsatellite loci we found that, like the native North American population, all five Chinese populations possessed a completely outcrossing mating system. The estimates of paternity correlations were low, ranging from 0.028–0.122, which suggests that populations possessed ∼8–36 pollen donor parents contributing to each maternal plant in the invasive populations. High levels of genetic diversity for both native and invasive populations were found with the unbiased estimate of gene diversity ranging from 0.262–0.289 for both geographic ranges based on AFLP markers. Our results demonstrate that there has been no evolutionary shift from outcrossing to selfing during A. artemisiifolia's invasion of China. Furthermore, high levels of genetic variation in North America and China indicate that there has been no erosion of genetic variance due to a bottleneck during the introduction process. We suggest that the successful invasion of A. artemisiifolia into Asia was facilitated by repeated introductions from multiple source populations in the native range creating a diverse gene pool within Chinese populations.
PMCID: PMC3285193  PMID: 22384104
24.  Mapping Genetic Diversity of Cherimoya (Annona cherimola Mill.): Application of Spatial Analysis for Conservation and Use of Plant Genetic Resources 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29845.
There is a growing call for inventories that evaluate geographic patterns in diversity of plant genetic resources maintained on farm and in species' natural populations in order to enhance their use and conservation. Such evaluations are relevant for useful tropical and subtropical tree species, as many of these species are still undomesticated, or in incipient stages of domestication and local populations can offer yet-unknown traits of high value to further domestication. For many outcrossing species, such as most trees, inbreeding depression can be an issue, and genetic diversity is important to sustain local production. Diversity is also crucial for species to adapt to environmental changes. This paper explores the possibilities of incorporating molecular marker data into Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to allow visualization and better understanding of spatial patterns of genetic diversity as a key input to optimize conservation and use of plant genetic resources, based on a case study of cherimoya (Annona cherimola Mill.), a Neotropical fruit tree species. We present spatial analyses to (1) improve the understanding of spatial distribution of genetic diversity of cherimoya natural stands and cultivated trees in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru based on microsatellite molecular markers (SSRs); and (2) formulate optimal conservation strategies by revealing priority areas for in situ conservation, and identifying existing diversity gaps in ex situ collections. We found high levels of allelic richness, locally common alleles and expected heterozygosity in cherimoya's putative centre of origin, southern Ecuador and northern Peru, whereas levels of diversity in southern Peru and especially in Bolivia were significantly lower. The application of GIS on a large microsatellite dataset allows a more detailed prioritization of areas for in situ conservation and targeted collection across the Andean distribution range of cherimoya than previous studies could do, i.e. at province and department level in Ecuador and Peru, respectively.
PMCID: PMC3253804  PMID: 22253801
25.  SNP Discovery and Development of a High-Density Genotyping Array for Sunflower 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29814.
Recent advances in next-generation DNA sequencing technologies have made possible the development of high-throughput SNP genotyping platforms that allow for the simultaneous interrogation of thousands of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Such resources have the potential to facilitate the rapid development of high-density genetic maps, and to enable genome-wide association studies as well as molecular breeding approaches in a variety of taxa. Herein, we describe the development of a SNP genotyping resource for use in sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.). This work involved the development of a reference transcriptome assembly for sunflower, the discovery of thousands of high quality SNPs based on the generation and analysis of ca. 6 Gb of transcriptome re-sequencing data derived from multiple genotypes, the selection of 10,640 SNPs for inclusion in the genotyping array, and the use of the resulting array to screen a diverse panel of sunflower accessions as well as related wild species. The results of this work revealed a high frequency of polymorphic SNPs and relatively high level of cross-species transferability. Indeed, greater than 95% of successful SNP assays revealed polymorphism, and more than 90% of these assays could be successfully transferred to related wild species. Analysis of the polymorphism data revealed patterns of genetic differentiation that were largely congruent with the evolutionary history of sunflower, though the large number of markers allowed for finer resolution than has previously been possible.
PMCID: PMC3251610  PMID: 22238659

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