Genetic differentiation, clinal variation and phenotypic associations with growth cessation across the Populus tremula photoperiodic pathway
Genetics: 2010 186:1033-1044
Perennial plants monitor seasonal changes through changes inenvironmental conditions such as the quantity and quality oflight. To ensure a correct initiation of critical developmentalprocesses, such as the initiation and cessation of growth, plantshave adapted to a spatially variable light regime and genesin the photoperiodic pathway have been implicated as likelysources for these adaptations. Here we examine genetic variationin genes from the photoperiodic pathway in Populus tremula (Salicaceae)for signatures diversifying selection in response to varyinglight regimes across a latitudinal gradient. We fail to identifyany loci with unusually high levels of genetic differentiationamong populations despite identifying four SNPs that show significantallele frequency clines with latitude. We do, however, observelarge covariance in allelic effects across populations for growthcessation, a highly adaptive trait in P. tremula. High covariancein allelic effects is a signature compatible with diversifyingselection along an environmental gradient. We also observe significantlyhigher heterogeneity in genetic differentiation among SNPs fromthe photoperiod genes than among SNPs from randomly chosen genes.This suggests that spatially variable selection could be affectinggenes from the photoperiod pathway even if selection is notstrong enough to cause individual loci to be identified as outliers.SNPs from three genes in the photoperiod pathway (PHYB2, LHY1,and LHY2) show significant associations with natural variationin growth cessation. Collectively these SNPs explain 10–15%of the phenotypic variation in growth cessation. Covariancesin allelic effects across populations help explain an additional5–7% of the phenotypic variation in growth cessation.
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