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1.  Identification of Internal Reference Genes for Gene Expression Normalization between the Two Sexes in Dioecious White Campion 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92893.
Quantitative real time (qRT)-PCR is a precise and efficient method for studying gene expression changes between two states of interest, and is frequently used for validating interesting gene expression patterns in candidate genes initially identified in genome-wide expression analyses, such as RNA-seq experiments. For an adequate normalisation of qRT-PCR data, it is essential to have reference genes available whose expression intensities are constant among the different states of interest. In this study we present and validate a catalogue of traditional and newly identified reference genes that were selected from RNA-seq data from multiple individuals from the dioecious plant Silene latifolia with the aim of studying gene expression differences between the two sexes in both reproductive and vegetative tissues. The catalogue contains more than 15 reference genes with both stable expression intensities and a range of expression intensities in flower buds and leaf tissues. These reference genes were used to normalize expression differences between reproductive and vegetative tissues in eight candidate genes with sex-biased expression. Our results suggest a trend towards a reduced sex-bias in sex-linked gene expression in vegetative tissues. In this study, we report on the systematic identification and validation of internal reference genes for adequate normalization of qRT-PCR-based analyses of gene expression differences between the two sexes in S. latifolia. We also show how RNA-seq data can be used efficiently to identify suitable reference genes in a wide diversity of species.
PMCID: PMC3968030  PMID: 24675788
2.  Phenotypic Effects of Salt and Heat Stress over Three Generations in Arabidopsis thaliana 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80819.
Current and predicted environmental change will force many organisms to adapt to novel conditions, especially sessile organisms such as plants. It is therefore important to better understand how plants react to environmental stress and to what extent genotypes differ in such responses. It has been proposed that adaptation to novel conditions could be facilitated by heritable epigenetic changes induced by environmental stress, independent of genetic variation. Here we assessed phenotypic effects of heat and salt stress within and across three generations using four highly inbred Arabidopsis thaliana genotypes (Col, Cvi, Ler and Sha). Salt stress generally decreased fitness, but genotypes were differently affected, suggesting that susceptibility of A. thaliana to salt stress varies among genotypes. Heat stress at an early rosette stage had less detrimental effects but accelerated flowering in three out of four accessions. Additionally, we found three different modes of transgenerational effects on phenotypes, all harboring the potential of being adaptive: heat stress in previous generations induced faster rosette growth in Sha, both under heat and control conditions, resembling a tracking response, while in Cvi, the phenotypic variance of several traits increased, resembling diversified bet-hedging. Salt stress experienced in earlier generations altered plant architecture of Sha under salt but not control conditions, similar to transgenerational phenotypic plasticity. However, transgenerational phenotypic effects depended on the type of stress as well as on genotype, suggesting that such effects may not be a general response leading to adaptation to novel environmental conditions in A. thaliana.
PMCID: PMC3828257  PMID: 24244719
3.  Unravelling genetics at the top: mountain islands or isolated belts? 
Annals of Botany  2012;110(6):1221-1232.
Background and Aims
In mountain plant populations, local adaptation has been described as one of the main responses to climate warming, allowing plants to persist under stressful conditions. This is especially the case for marginal populations at their lowest elevation, as they are highly vulnerable. Adequate levels of genetic diversity are required for selection to take place, while high levels of altitudinal gene flow are seen as a major limiting factor potentially precluding local adaptation processes. Thus, a compromise between genetic diversity and gene flow seems necessary to guarantee persistence under oncoming conditions. It is therefore critical to determine if gene flow occurs preferentially between mountains at similar altitudinal belts, promoting local adaptation at the lowest populations, or conversely along altitude within each mountain.
Microsatellite markers were used to unravel genetic diversity and population structure, inbreeding and gene flow of populations at two nearby altitudinal gradients of Silene ciliata, a Mediterranean high-mountain cushion plant.
Key Results
Genetic diversity and inbreeding coefficients were similar in all populations. Substantial gene flow was found both along altitudinal gradients and horizontally within each elevation belt, although greater values were obtained along altitudinal gradients. Gene flow may be responsible for the homogeneous levels of genetic diversity found among populations. Bayesian cluster analyses also suggested that shifts along altitudinal gradients are the most plausible scenario.
Past population shifts associated with glaciations and interglacial periods in temperate mountains may partially explain current distributions of genetic diversity and population structure. In spite of the predominance of gene flow along the altitudinal gradients, local genetic differentiation of one of the lower populations together with the detection of one outlier locus might support the existence of different selection forces at low altitudes.
PMCID: PMC3478054  PMID: 23002271
Gene flow; genetic variation; glacial refuge; local adaptation; mountain plant; altitudinal range; Silene ciliata; Caryophyllaceae
4.  Environmental Heat and Salt Stress Induce Transgenerational Phenotypic Changes in Arabidopsis thaliana 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60364.
Plants that can adapt their phenotype may be more likely to survive changing environmental conditions. Heritable epigenetic variation could provide a way to rapidly adapt to such changes. Here we tested whether environmental stress induces heritable, potentially adaptive phenotypic changes independent of genetic variation over few generations in Arabidopsis thaliana. We grew two accessions (Col-0, Sha-0) of A. thaliana for three generations under salt, heat and control conditions and tested for induced heritable phenotypic changes in the fourth generation (G4) and in reciprocal F1 hybrids generated in generation three. Using these crosses we further tested whether phenotypic changes were maternally or paternally transmitted. In generation five (G5), we assessed whether phenotypic effects persisted over two generations in the absence of stress. We found that exposure to heat stress in previous generations accelerated flowering under G4 control conditions in Sha-0, but heritable effects disappeared in G5 after two generations without stress exposure. Previous exposure to salt stress increased salt tolerance in one of two reciprocal F1 hybrids. Transgenerational effects were maternally and paternally inherited. Lacking genetic variability, maternal and paternal inheritance and reversibility of transgenerational effects together indicate that stress can induce heritable, potentially adaptive phenotypic changes, probably through epigenetic mechanisms. These effects were strongly dependent on plant genotype and may not be a general response to stress in A. thaliana.
PMCID: PMC3621951  PMID: 23585834
5.  Herkogamy and Its Effects on Mating Patterns in Arabidopsis thaliana 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e57902.
The evolution of mating systems, which exhibit an extraordinary diversity in flowering plants, is of central interest in plant biology. Herkogamy, the spatial separation of sexual organs within flowers, is a widespread floral mechanism that is thought to be an adaptive trait reducing self-pollination in hermaphroditic plants. In contrast with previous studies of herkogamy that focused on plants with relatively large floral displays, we here characterized herkogamy in Arabidopsis thaliana, a model plant with a strong selfing syndrome. Developmental features, reproductive consequences, and genetic architecture of herkogamy were exploited using naturally variable A. thaliana accessions, under both greenhouse and natural conditions. Our results demonstrate that the degree of herkogamy can strongly influence the mating patterns of A. thaliana: approach herkogamy can effectively promote outcrossing, no herkogamy is also capable of enhancing the opportunity for outcrossing, and reverse herkogamy facilitates efficient self-pollination. In addition, we found that the expression of herkogamy in A. thaliana was environment-dependent and regulated by multiple quantitative trait loci. This study reveals how minor modifications in floral morphology may cause dramatic changes in plant mating patterns, provides new insights into the function of herkogamy, and suggests the way for dissecting the genetic basis of this important character in a model plant.
PMCID: PMC3582510  PMID: 23469099
6.  Identification of white campion (Silene latifolia) guaiacol O-methyltransferase involved in the biosynthesis of veratrole, a key volatile for pollinator attraction 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:158.
Silene latifolia and its pollinator, the noctuid moth Hadena bicruris, represent an open nursery pollination system wherein floral volatiles, especially veratrole (1, 2-dimethoxybenzene), lilac aldehydes, and phenylacetaldehyde are of key importance for floral signaling. Despite the important role of floral scent in ensuring reproductive success in S. latifolia, the molecular basis of scent biosynthesis in this species has not yet been investigated.
We isolated two full-length cDNAs from S. latifolia that show similarity to rose orcinol O-methyltransferase. Biochemical analysis showed that both S. latifolia guaiacol O-methyltransferase1 (SlGOMT1) &S. latifolia guaiacol O-methyltransferase2 (SlGOMT2) encode proteins that catalyze the methylation of guaiacol to form veratrole. A large Km value difference between SlGOMT1 (~10 μM) and SlGOMT2 (~501 μM) resulted that SlGOMT1 is 31-fold more catalytically efficient than SlGOMT2. qRT-PCR expression analysis showed that the SlGOMT genes are specifically expressed in flowers and male S. latifolia flowers had 3- to 4-folds higher level of GOMT gene transcripts than female flower tissues. Two related cDNAs, S. dioica O-methyltransferase1 (SdOMT1) and S. dioica O-methyltransferase2 (SdOMT2), were also obtained from the sister species Silene dioica, but the proteins they encode did not methylate guaiacol, consistent with the lack of veratrole emission in the flowers of this species. Our evolutionary analysis uncovered that SlGOMT1 and SlGOMT2 genes evolved under positive selection, whereas SdOMT1 and SdOMT2 genes show no evidence for selection.
Altogether, we report the identification and functional characterization of the gene, SlGOMT1 that efficiently catalyzes veratrole formation, whereas another copy of this gene with only one amino acid difference, SlGOMT2 was found to be less efficient for veratrole synthesis in S. latifolia.
PMCID: PMC3492160  PMID: 22937972
Floral scent; VOC; 1, 2-dimethoxybenzene; Pollination; Hadena bicruris
7.  Comparative analysis of a plant pseudoautosomal region (PAR) in Silene latifolia with the corresponding S. vulgaris autosome 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:226.
The sex chromosomes of Silene latifolia are heteromorphic as in mammals, with females being homogametic (XX) and males heterogametic (XY). While recombination occurs along the entire X chromosome in females, recombination between the X and Y chromosomes in males is restricted to the pseudoautosomal region (PAR). In the few mammals so far studied, PARs are often characterized by elevated recombination and mutation rates and high GC content compared with the rest of the genome. However, PARs have not been studied in plants until now. In this paper we report the construction of a BAC library for S. latifolia and the first analysis of a > 100 kb fragment of a S. latifolia PAR that we compare to the homologous autosomal region in the closely related gynodioecious species S. vulgaris.
Six new sex-linked genes were identified in the S. latifolia PAR, together with numerous transposable elements. The same genes were found on the S. vulgaris autosomal segment, with no enlargement of the predicted coding sequences in S. latifolia. Intergenic regions were on average 1.6 times longer in S. latifolia than in S. vulgaris, mainly as a consequence of the insertion of transposable elements. The GC content did not differ significantly between the PAR region in S. latifolia and the corresponding autosomal region in S. vulgaris.
Our results demonstrate the usefulness of the BAC library developed here for the analysis of plant sex chromosomes and indicate that the PAR in the evolutionarily young S. latifolia sex chromosomes has diverged from the corresponding autosomal region in the gynodioecious S. vulgaris mainly with respect to the insertion of transposable elements. Gene order between the PAR and autosomal region investigated is conserved, and the PAR does not have the high GC content observed in evolutionarily much older mammalian sex chromosomes.
PMCID: PMC3431222  PMID: 22681719
BAC library; Pseudoautosomal region; PAR; Silene latifolia; Sex chromosome; Evolution
8.  Rapid De Novo Evolution of X Chromosome Dosage Compensation in Silene latifolia, a Plant with Young Sex Chromosomes 
PLoS Biology  2012;10(4):e1001308.
Evidence for dosage compensation in Silene latifolia, a plant with 10-million-year-old sex chromosomes, reveals that dosage compensation can evolve rapidly in young XY systems and is not an animal-specific phenomenon.
Silene latifolia is a dioecious plant with heteromorphic sex chromosomes that have originated only ∼10 million years ago and is a promising model organism to study sex chromosome evolution in plants. Previous work suggests that S. latifolia XY chromosomes have gradually stopped recombining and the Y chromosome is undergoing degeneration as in animal sex chromosomes. However, this work has been limited by the paucity of sex-linked genes available. Here, we used 35 Gb of RNA-seq data from multiple males (XY) and females (XX) of an S. latifolia inbred line to detect sex-linked SNPs and identified more than 1,700 sex-linked contigs (with X-linked and Y-linked alleles). Analyses using known sex-linked and autosomal genes, together with simulations indicate that these newly identified sex-linked contigs are reliable. Using read numbers, we then estimated expression levels of X-linked and Y-linked alleles in males and found an overall trend of reduced expression of Y-linked alleles, consistent with a widespread ongoing degeneration of the S. latifolia Y chromosome. By comparing expression intensities of X-linked alleles in males and females, we found that X-linked allele expression increases as Y-linked allele expression decreases in males, which makes expression of sex-linked contigs similar in both sexes. This phenomenon is known as dosage compensation and has so far only been observed in evolutionary old animal sex chromosome systems. Our results suggest that dosage compensation has evolved in plants and that it can quickly evolve de novo after the origin of sex chromosomes.
Author Summary
The mammalian sex chromosomes originated from an ancestral pair of autosomes about 150 million years ago and the Y chromosome subsequently degenerated, losing most of its genes. During this process, a phenomenon called dosage compensation evolved to compensate for the gene loss on the Y chromosome and to equalize expression of X-linked genes in the two sexes. In humans, this is achieved by inactivating one of the two X chromosomes in females. Dosage compensation has also been reported in other animal XY systems such as fruit flies and worms, each 100 million years old or more. Here we studied dosage compensation in plants. We used high-throughput RNA sequencing in male and female Silene latifolia (white campion)—a dioecious plant whose XY chromosomes originated only about 10 million years ago—to identify hundreds of sex-linked genes. Analysis of their expression patterns in males and females revealed equal doses of sex-linked transcripts in both sexes, regardless of the degree of reduction of Y expression due to degeneration. Our results thus show that dosage compensation occurs in plants and is thus not an animal-specific phenomenon. They also reveal that proportionate dosage compensation can evolve rapidly de novo after the origin of sex chromosomes.
PMCID: PMC3328428  PMID: 22529744
9.  Searching for gene flow from cultivated to wild strawberries in Central Europe 
Annals of Botany  2011;107(4):699-707.
Background and Aims
Experimental crosses between the diploid woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca L.) and the octoploid garden strawberry (F. × ananassa Duch.) can lead to the formation of viable hybrids. However, the extent of such hybrid formation under natural conditions is unknown, but is of fundamental interest and importance in the light of the potential future cultivation of transgenic strawberries. A hybrid survey was therefore conducted in the surroundings of ten farms in Switzerland and southern Germany, where strawberries have been cultivated for at least 10 years and where wild strawberries occur in the close vicinity.
In 2007 and 2008, 370 wild F. vesca plants were sampled at natural populations around farms and analysed with microsatellite markers. In 2010, natural populations were revisited and morphological traits of 3050 F. vesca plants were inspected. DNA contents of cell nuclei of morphologically deviating plants were estimated by flow cytometry to identify hybrids. As controls, 50 hybrid plants from interspecific hand-crosses were analysed using microsatellite analysis and DNA contents of cell nuclei were estimated by flow cytometry.
Key Results
None of the wild samples collected in 2007 and 2008 contained F. × ananassa microsatellite markers, while all hybrids from hand-crosses clearly contained markers of both parent species. Morphological inspection of wild populations carried out in 2010 and subsequent flow cytometry of ten morphologically deviating plants revealed no hybrids.
Hybrid formation or hybrid establishment in natural populations in the survey area is at best a rare event.
PMCID: PMC3064547  PMID: 21307039
Fragaria vesca; Fragaria × ananassa; hybridization; microsatellite markers; genetically modified organisms; gene flow
10.  Comparative high-throughput transcriptome sequencing and development of SiESTa, the Silene EST annotation database 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:376.
The genus Silene is widely used as a model system for addressing ecological and evolutionary questions in plants, but advances in using the genus as a model system are impeded by the lack of available resources for studying its genome. Massively parallel sequencing cDNA has recently developed into an efficient method for characterizing the transcriptomes of non-model organisms, generating massive amounts of data that enable the study of multiple species in a comparative framework. The sequences generated provide an excellent resource for identifying expressed genes, characterizing functional variation and developing molecular markers, thereby laying the foundations for future studies on gene sequence and gene expression divergence. Here, we report the results of a comparative transcriptome sequencing study of eight individuals representing four Silene and one Dianthus species as outgroup. All sequences and annotations have been deposited in a newly developed and publicly available database called SiESTa, the Silene EST annotation database.
A total of 1,041,122 EST reads were generated in two runs on a Roche GS-FLX 454 pyrosequencing platform. EST reads were analyzed separately for all eight individuals sequenced and were assembled into contigs using TGICL. These were annotated with results from BLASTX searches and Gene Ontology (GO) terms, and thousands of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were characterized. Unassembled reads were kept as singletons and together with the contigs contributed to the unigenes characterized in each individual. The high quality of unigenes is evidenced by the proportion (49%) that have significant hits in similarity searches with the A. thaliana proteome. The SiESTa database is accessible at
The sequence collections established in the present study provide an important genomic resource for four Silene and one Dianthus species and will help to further develop Silene as a plant model system. The genes characterized will be useful for future research not only in the species included in the present study, but also in related species for which no genomic resources are yet available. Our results demonstrate the efficiency of massively parallel transcriptome sequencing in a comparative framework as an approach for developing genomic resources in diverse groups of non-model organisms.
PMCID: PMC3157477  PMID: 21791039
cDNA library; database; EST; SNP; Silene
11.  Plant centromeric retrotransposons: a structural and cytogenetic perspective 
Mobile DNA  2011;2:4.
The centromeric and pericentromeric regions of plant chromosomes are colonized by Ty3/gypsy retrotransposons, which, on the basis of their reverse transcriptase sequences, form the chromovirus CRM clade. Despite their potential importance for centromere evolution and function, they have remained poorly characterized. In this work, we aimed to carry out a comprehensive survey of CRM clade elements with an emphasis on their diversity, structure, chromosomal distribution and transcriptional activity.
We have surveyed a set of 190 CRM elements belonging to 81 different retrotransposon families, derived from 33 host species and falling into 12 plant families. The sequences at the C-terminus of their integrases were unexpectedly heterogeneous, despite the understanding that they are responsible for targeting to the centromere. This variation allowed the division of the CRM clade into the three groups A, B and C, and the members of each differed considerably with respect to their chromosomal distribution. The differences in chromosomal distribution coincided with variation in the integrase C-terminus sequences possessing a putative targeting domain (PTD). A majority of the group A elements possess the CR motif and are concentrated in the centromeric region, while members of group C have the type II chromodomain and are dispersed throughout the genome. Although representatives of the group B lack a PTD of any type, they appeared to be localized preferentially in the centromeres of tested species. All tested elements were found to be transcriptionally active.
Comprehensive analysis of the CRM clade elements showed that genuinely centromeric retrotransposons represent only a fraction of the CRM clade (group A). These centromeric retrotransposons represent an active component of centromeres of a wide range of angiosperm species, implying that they play an important role in plant centromere evolution. In addition, their transcriptional activity is consistent with the notion that the transcription of centromeric retrotransposons has a role in normal centromere function.
PMCID: PMC3059260  PMID: 21371312
12.  Structure and evolution of Apetala3, a sex-linked gene in Silene latifolia 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:180.
The evolution of sex chromosomes is often accompanied by gene or chromosome rearrangements. Recently, the gene AP3 was characterized in the dioecious plant species Silene latifolia. It was suggested that this gene had been transferred from an autosome to the Y chromosome.
In the present study we provide evidence for the existence of an X linked copy of the AP3 gene. We further show that the Y copy is probably located in a chromosomal region where recombination restriction occurred during the first steps of sex chromosome evolution. A comparison of X and Y copies did not reveal any clear signs of degenerative processes in exon regions. Instead, both X and Y copies show evidence for relaxed selection compared to the autosomal orthologues in S. vulgaris and S. conica. We further found that promoter sequences differ significantly. Comparison of the genic region of AP3 between the X and Y alleles and the corresponding autosomal copies in the gynodioecious species S. vulgaris revealed a massive accumulation of retrotransposons within one intron of the Y copy of AP3. Analysis of the genomic distribution of these repetitive elements does not indicate that these elements played an important role in the size increase characteristic of the Y chromosome. However, in silico expression analysis shows biased expression of individual domains of the identified retroelements in male plants.
We characterized the structure and evolution of AP3, a sex linked gene with copies on the X and Y chromosomes in the dioecious plant S. latifolia. These copies showed complementary expression patterns and relaxed evolution at protein level compared to autosomal orthologues, which suggests subfunctionalization. One intron of the Y-linked allele was invaded by retrotransposons that display sex-specific expression patterns that are similar to the expression pattern of the corresponding allele, which suggests that these transposable elements may have influenced evolution of expression patterns of the Y copy. These data could help researchers decipher the role of transposable elements in degenerative processes during sex chromosome evolution.
PMCID: PMC3095310  PMID: 20718967
13.  The genic view of plant speciation: recent progress and emerging questions 
The genic view of the process of speciation is based on the notion that species isolation may be achieved by a modest number of genes. Although great strides have been made to characterize ‘speciation genes’ in some groups of animals, little is known about the nature of genic barriers to gene flow in plants. We review recent progress in the characterization of genic species barriers in plants with a focus on five ‘model’ genera: Mimulus (monkey flowers); Iris (irises); Helianthus (sunflowers); Silene (campions); and Populus (poplars, aspens, cottonwoods). The study species in all five genera are diploid in terms of meiotic behaviour, and chromosomal rearrangements are assumed to play a minor role in species isolation, with the exception of Helianthus for which data on the relative roles of chromosomal and genic isolation factors are available. Our review identifies the following key topics as being of special interest for future research: the role of intraspecific variation in speciation; the detection of balancing versus directional selection in speciation genetic studies; the timing of fixation of alleles of major versus minor effects during plant speciation; the likelihood of adaptive trait introgression; and the identification and characterization of speciation genes and speciation gene networks.
PMCID: PMC2607315  PMID: 18579476
speciation; Mimulus; Iris; Helianthus; Silene; Populus
14.  How to be an attractive male: floral dimorphism and attractiveness to pollinators in a dioecious plant 
Sexual selection theory predicts that males are limited in their reproductive success by access to mates, whereas females are more limited by resources. In animal-pollinated plants, attraction of pollinators and successful pollination is crucial for reproductive success. In dioecious plant species, males should thus be selected to increase their attractiveness to pollinators by investing more than females in floral traits that enhance pollinator visitation. We tested the prediction of higher attractiveness of male flowers in the dioecious, moth-pollinated herb Silene latifolia, by investigating floral signals (floral display and fragrance) and conducting behavioral experiments with the pollinator-moth, Hadena bicruris.
As found in previous studies, male plants produced more but smaller flowers. Male flowers, however, emitted significantly larger amounts of scent than female flowers, especially of the pollinator-attracting compounds. In behavioral tests we showed that naïve pollinator-moths preferred male over female flowers, but this preference was only significant for male moths.
Our data suggest the evolution of dimorphic floral signals is shaped by sexual selection and pollinator preferences, causing sexual conflict in both plants and pollinators.
PMCID: PMC2738674  PMID: 19660122
15.  A White Campion (Silene latifolia) floral expressed sequence tag (EST) library: annotation, EST-SSR characterization, transferability, and utility for comparative mapping 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:243.
Expressed sequence tag (EST) databases represent a valuable resource for the identification of genes in organisms with uncharacterized genomes and for development of molecular markers. One class of markers derived from EST sequences are simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers, also known as EST-SSRs. These are useful in plant genetic and evolutionary studies because they are located in transcribed genes and a putative function can often be inferred from homology searches. Another important feature of EST-SSR markers is their expected high level of transferability to related species that makes them very promising for comparative mapping. In the present study we constructed a normalized EST library from floral tissue of Silene latifolia with the aim to identify expressed genes and to develop polymorphic molecular markers.
We obtained a total of 3662 high quality sequences from a normalized Silene cDNA library. These represent 3105 unigenes, with 73% of unigenes matching genes in other species. We found 255 sequences containing one or more SSR motifs. More than 60% of these SSRs were trinucleotides. A total of 30 microsatellite loci were identified from 106 ESTs having sufficient flanking sequences for primer design. The inheritance of these loci was tested via segregation analyses and their usefulness for linkage mapping was assessed in an interspecific cross. Tests for crossamplification of the EST-SSR loci in other Silene species established their applicability to related species.
The newly characterized genes and gene-derived markers from our Silene EST library represent a valuable genetic resource for future studies on Silene latifolia and related species. The polymorphism and transferability of EST-SSR markers facilitate comparative linkage mapping and analyses of genetic diversity in the genus Silene.
PMCID: PMC2689282  PMID: 19467153
16.  Cophylogeny of the anther smut fungi and their caryophyllaceous hosts: Prevalence of host shifts and importance of delimiting parasite species for inferring cospeciation 
Using phylogenetic approaches, the expectation that parallel cladogenesis should occur between parasites and hosts has been validated in some studies, but most others provided evidence for frequent host shifts. Here we examine the evolutionary history of the association between Microbotryum fungi that cause anther smut disease and their Caryophyllaceous hosts. We investigated the congruence between host and parasite phylogenies, inferred cospeciation events and host shifts, and assessed whether geography or plant ecology could have facilitated the putative host shifts identified.
For cophylogeny analyses on microorganisms, parasite strains isolated from different host species are generally considered to represent independent evolutionary lineages, often without checking whether some strains actually belong to the same generalist species. Such an approach may mistake intraspecific nodes for speciation events and thus bias the results of cophylogeny analyses if generalist species are found on closely related hosts. A second aim of this study was therefore to evaluate the impact of species delimitation on the inferences of cospeciation.
We inferred a multiple gene phylogeny of anther smut strains from 21 host plants from several geographic origins, complementing a previous study on the delimitation of fungal species and their host specificities. We also inferred a multi-gene phylogeny of their host plants, and the two phylogenies were compared. A significant level of cospeciation was found when each host species was considered to harbour a specific parasite strain, i.e. when generalist parasite species were not recognized as such. This approach overestimated the frequency of cocladogenesis because individual parasite species capable of infecting multiple host species (i.e. generalists) were found on closely related hosts. When generalist parasite species were appropriately delimited and only a single representative of each species was retained, cospeciation events were not more frequent than expected under a random distribution, and many host shifts were inferred.
Current geographic distributions of host species seemed to be of little relevance for understanding the putative historical host shifts, because most fungal species had overlapping geographic ranges. We did detect some ecological similarities, including shared pollinators and habitat types, between host species that were diseased by closely related anther smut species. Overall, genetic similarity underlying the host-parasite interactions appeared to have the most important influence on specialization and host-shifts: generalist multi-host parasite species were found on closely related plant species, and related species in the Microbotryum phylogeny were associated with members of the same host clade.
We showed here that Microbotryum species have evolved through frequent host shifts to moderately distant hosts, and we show further that accurate delimitation of parasite species is essential for interpreting cophylogeny studies.
PMCID: PMC2324105  PMID: 18371215
17.  QTL Analysis of Intraspecific Differences between Two Silene vulgaris Ecotypes 
Annals of Botany  2006;98(2):411-419.
• Background and Aims Serpentine soils provide a highly selective substrate for plant colonization and growth and represent an ideal system for studying the evolution of plant-ecotypes. In the present study the aim was to identify the genetic architecture of morphological traits distinguishing serpentine and non-serpentine ecotypes of Silene vulgaris.
• Methods Using an F2 mapping population derived from an intraspecific cross between a serpentine and a non-serpentine ecotype of S. vulgaris, the genetic architecture of 12 morphological traits was explored using a quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis.
• Key Results The QTL analysis identified a total of 49 QTLs, of which 24 were classified as major QTLs. The mean number of QTLs per trait category was found to correspond well with numbers reported in the literature for similar crosses. Clustering of QTLs for different traits was found on several linkage groups.
• Conclusions Morphological traits that differentiate the two ecotypes are strongly correlated, presumably as a consequence of the joint effects of extensive linkage of QTLs for different traits and directional selection. The signature of consistent directional selection was found for leaf and shoot trait divergence. Intraspecific ecotype differences in S. vulgaris were found to be distributed across the entire genome. The study shows that QTL analyses on non-model organisms can provide novel insights into the genetic basis of plant diversification.
PMCID: PMC2803471  PMID: 16757498
AFLP; directional selection; ecological divergence; ecotype; habitat adaptation; intraspecific differences; linkage map; QTL; serpentine; Silene vulgaris
18.  Evidence for reproductive isolate selection in Mediterranean orchids: karyotype differences compensate for the lack of pollinator specificity. 
Mediterranean orchids of the subtribe Orchidinae are highly diverse and display a range of fascinating pollination strategies. Based on observations that orchid-pollinator relationships are often highly specialized and species specific, Darwin and others have argued that selection for different pollinators has been the driving force behind the evolutionary diversification of orchids. This may be true for orchids that attract different, specialized pollinators that act as prezygotic reproductive barriers. It is, however, not clear how closely related co-flowering Mediterranean orchids that share pollinators survive the challenge of sympatry. We show that species pairs with a generalized pool of pollinators have significantly more divergent karyotypes compared with species pairs with different pollinators. These results show that karyotype differences that act as postzygotic reproductive barriers may have played an important role in the evolution of Mediterranean orchid diversity.
PMCID: PMC1810064  PMID: 15503988
19.  Evidence for pollinator sharing in Mediterranean nectar-mimic orchids: absence of premating barriers? 
Pollinator specificity has traditionally been considered the main reproductive isolation mechanism in orchids. Among Mediterranean orchids, however, many species attract and deceive pollinators by mimicking nectar-rewarding plants. To test the extent to which deceptive orchid species share pollinators, we collected and identified hemipollinaria-carrying insects, and used ribosomal sequences to identify the orchid species from which hemipollinaria were removed. We found that social and solitary bees, and also flies, carried hemipollinaria belonging to nine orchid species with different degrees of specialization. In particular, Anacamptis morio, Dactylorhiza romana and Orchis mascula used a large set of pollinator species, whereas others such as Orchis quadripunctata seemed to be pollinated by one pollinator species only. Out of the insects with hemipollinaria, 19% were found to carry hemipollinaria from more than one orchid species, indicating that sympatric food-deceptive orchids can share pollinators. This sharing was apparent even among orchid sister-species, thus revealing an effective overlap in pollinator sets among closely related species. These results suggest varying degrees of pollinator specificity in these orchids, and indicate that pollinator specificity cannot always act as the main isolation mechanism in food-deceptive temperate orchids.
PMCID: PMC1564100  PMID: 16024392
bees; hemipollinaria; nuclear rDNA internal transcribed spacer; pollination; orchids; reproductive isolation
20.  The genetic architecture necessary for transgressive segregation is common in both natural and domesticated populations. 
Segregating hybrids often exhibit phenotypes that are extreme or novel relative to the parental lines. This phenomenon is referred to as transgressive segregation, and it provides a mechanism by which hybridization might contribute to adaptive evolution. Genetic studies indicate that transgressive segregation typically results from recombination between parental taxa that possess quantitative trait loci (QTLs) with antagonistic effects (i.e. QTLs with effects that are in the opposite direction to parental differences for those traits). To assess whether this genetic architecture is common, we tabulated the direction of allelic effects for 3252 QTLs from 749 traits and 96 studies. Most traits (63.6%) had at least one antagonistic QTL, indicating that the genetic substrate for transgressive segregation is common. Plants had significantly more antagonistic QTLs than animals, which agrees with previous reports that transgressive segregation is more common in plants than in animals. Likewise, antagonistic QTLs were more frequent in intra- than in interspecific crosses and in morphological than in physiological traits. These results indicate that transgressive segregation provides a general mechanism for the production of extreme phenotypes at both above and below the species level and testify to the possible creative part of hybridization in adaptive evolution and speciation.
PMCID: PMC1693210  PMID: 12831480
21.  Population genomic footprints of selection and associations with climate in natural populations of Arabidopsis halleri from the Alps 
Molecular Ecology  2013;22(22):5594-5607.
Natural genetic variation is essential for the adaptation of organisms to their local environment and to changing environmental conditions. Here, we examine genomewide patterns of nucleotide variation in natural populations of the outcrossing herb Arabidopsis halleri and associations with climatic variation among populations in the Alps. Using a pooled population sequencing (Pool-Seq) approach, we discovered more than two million SNPs in five natural populations and identified highly differentiated genomic regions and SNPs using FST-based analyses. We tested only the most strongly differentiated SNPs for associations with a nonredundant set of environmental factors using partial Mantel tests to identify topo-climatic factors that may underlie the observed footprints of selection. Possible functions of genes showing signatures of selection were identified by Gene Ontology analysis. We found 175 genes to be highly associated with one or more of the five tested topo-climatic factors. Of these, 23.4% had unknown functions. Genetic variation in four candidate genes was strongly associated with site water balance and solar radiation, and functional annotations were congruent with these environmental factors. Our results provide a genomewide perspective on the distribution of adaptive genetic variation in natural plant populations from a highly diverse and heterogeneous alpine environment.
PMCID: PMC4274019  PMID: 24102711
adaptation; environmental association; genome resequencing; pooled sequencing; Pool-Seq; population genomics

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