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1.  Populus tremula (European aspen) shows no evidence of sexual dimorphism 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14(1):276.
Evolutionary theory suggests that males and females may evolve sexually dimorphic phenotypic and biochemical traits concordant with each sex having different optimal strategies of resource investment to maximise reproductive success and fitness. Such sexual dimorphism would result in sex biased gene expression patterns in non-floral organs for autosomal genes associated with the control and development of such phenotypic traits.
We examined morphological, biochemical and herbivory traits to test for sexually dimorphic resource allocation strategies within collections of sexually mature and immature Populus tremula (European aspen) trees. In addition we profiled gene expression in mature leaves of sexually mature wild trees using whole-genome oligonucleotide microarrays and RNA-Sequencing.
We found no evidence of sexual dimorphism or differential resource investment strategies between males and females in either sexually immature or mature trees. Similarly, single-gene differential expression and machine learning approaches revealed no evidence of large-scale sex biased gene expression. However, two significantly differentially expressed genes were identified from the RNA-Seq data, one of which is a robust diagnostic marker of sex in P. tremula.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12870-014-0276-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4203875  PMID: 25318822
Sexual dimorphism; RNA-Sequencing; transcriptomics; Populus tremula; dioecious
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
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

Results 1-6 (6)