Norway spruce and Scots pine are the two most economically important species in Fennoscandia. Despite several decades of breeding activity both species remain mostly undomesticated and thus still retain great potential for improvement. The traditional phenotype-based selection of superior trees is now undergoing a fast revolution where genomic-based selection (Genomic Selection) can substitute costly field tests.
Genomic selection full potential requires of accurate and high-throughput phenotyping tools which will allow incorporating into the breeding programs a number of properties which otherwise were too expensive or tedious to measure, such as wood physical and chemical properties.
Genomic Selection (GS) for wood properties
Genomic prediction using genome-wide dense markers or genomic selection (GS) was first introduced by Theo Meuwissen. The method builds on the estimation of the effect of large numbers of DNA markers covering the entire genome and subsequently predict the genomic value of individuals that have been genotyped, but not phenotyped. As compared to the phenotypic mass selection based on a pedigree-based relationship matrix (A matrix), genomic prediction relies on constructing a marker-based relationship matrix (G matrix). The superiority of the G-matrix is the result of a more precise estimation of genetic similarity based on Mendelian segregation that not only captures recently pedigree but also the historical pedigree, and corrects possible errors in the pedigree. At MRGG´s lab we develop GS models for wood physical (density, MFA, MOE…) and chemical (cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin…) properties in Norway spruce. Aspects such as phenotyping efficient protocols for wood properties, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) coding, environmental factors, progeny size, consanguinity are part of the model development for its implementation into operational breeding.
Inbreeding depression in Scots pine
In Sweden, conifer breeders are aware about the possible negative effect of increased inbreeding, so called inbreeding depression (ID), after successive cycles of selection. Moreover, inbreeding has been suggested, although not empirically evaluated, as a potential breeding tool through the exploitation of within-species heterosis. With no doubt inbreeding management is a central question in conifer breeding that has mostly been address through theoretical models, whereas empirical data has not been generated to probe any of those models right. At MRGG´s lab we conduct genomic studies on inbreed crosses of Scots pine to dissect the genetic control of inbreeding and its potential exploitation in conifer breeding.
Local adaptation in response to light quality
As a consequence of climate change, it is expected mean temperature to increase in 1.5 oC to 2oC, which is seen by the breeders as an opportunity for assisted migration northwards of the southern genotypes to benefit from their genetically governed extended growth. This would result in a substantial gain in volume. However, in addition to potential limitations in the extention of the growth season such as early spring frost, there are certain environmental cues that are not expected to change following the climate change, but to which trees are also adapted, such as light quality, day length and light intensity. This could limit the value of assisted migration. At MRGG´s lab we are investigating the genetic basis of local adaptation to light intensity and quality. During the growth season the trees in the north are exposed to higher proportions of far-red (FR) to red (R) light, which has resulted in a steep local adaptation to the response to R/FR ratio. These studies have involved greenhouse, cabinet experiments in combination with microarray and transcriptomic (RNAseq) data.
Shade avoidance response in conifers
Plants sense and respond to light quality and intensity, which is reflected at all different stages of seedling development. Response to shade differs among species in both angiosperms and gymnosperms depending on their level of tolerance to shade. Shade avoidance syndrome (SAS) is well-characterized in the shade intolerant model species A. thaliana whereas much less is known about the shade tolerance response (STR). At MRGG´s we conduct comparative studies in two conifer species with contrasting responses to shade; Scots pine, (shade-intolerant) and Norway spruce (shade-tolerant), with the aim to understand mechanisms behind SAS and STR in conifers.
- Ranade SS & García-Gil MR (2013). Adaptive cline to light spectra in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L). Tree physiology. 4: 479-493
- Ranade SS, Abrahamsson S, Niemi J, and García-Gil MR (2013). Comparison of global expression profile under red light and far- red light in a conifer species. American Journal of Plant Science 4:479-493
- Abrahamsson S, Hallander J, Waldmann P and García-Gil MR (2013). Heterozygosity-fitness correlation (HFC) in an inbreed Scots pine population. Genetica, DOI10.1007/s10709-013-9704-y
- Nystedt B et al (2013). The draft sequence of the 20 GBp Norway spruce (Picea abies) genome (shed light on conifer genome evolution). Nature doi:10.1038/nature12211
- Sillanpää MJ, Pikkuhookana P, Abrahamsson S, Fries A and García-Gil MR (2012). Simultaneous estimation of multiple quantitative trait loci and growth curve parameters through hierarchical Bayesian modeling. Heredity 108(2): 134-146
- Abrahamsson S, Nilsson JE, Wu H, García-Gil MR, Andersson B (2012). Inheritance of height growth and autumn cold hardiness based on two generations of full-sib and half-sib families of Pinus sylvestris. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research. 27:415-413
- 1999: PhD in Genetics: Citrus quantitative genetics and molecular breeding, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain
- 1994: Master in Microbiology and Biochemistry, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain
- 2019-ongoing: Vice dean (30%), Faculty of Forestry, SLU, Sweden
- 2010-ongoing: Associate Professor (70%), Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology, Faculty of Forest Sciences, SLU, Umeå, Sweden
- 2005-2010: Assistant professor, Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology, SLU, Umeå, Sweden
- 2000-2004: Marie Curie Post-doctoral researcher, Department of Biology, Oulu University, Finland
- 2019-2019: Fellowship Cooperative Research Program (OECD)
- 2003-2004: Marie Curie Fellowship R
- 2002-2003: Marie Curie Fellowship 30
- 2000-2001: European Science Foundation Fellowship
- 2019-2020: Member of the Faculty of Forestry board, SLU, Sweden
- 2019-ongoing: Member of the Föreningen Skogträdföradling board
- 2019-ongoing: Member of The Barents Forest Sector Network (BFSN)
- 2019-2022: Chairperson of the Interantional committee at the Faculty of Forestry, SLU, Sweden
- 2015-ongoing: Member of the UPSC board, Umeå, Sweden
- 2011-2020: Administrator of the second and third Research Schools in Forest Biotechonology and Genetics, SLU
- Total number of publications: 48 publications (44 peer-reviewed articles and 4 book chapters)
- Number of citations: 2193
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CV M.R. García Gil
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Min forskning är inom skogsgenetik. Vårt mål är att förstå genetiken som ligger bakom biologiska processer av ekonomiskt och ekologiskt värde (t. ex. tillväxt, motståndskraft mot angrepp av skadeorganismer, köldtolerans och tid för knoppsättning) hos tall och gran.
Majoriteten av dessa egenskaper är komplexa vilket innebär att de styrs av ett stort antal gener och geninteraktioner. På grund av denna komplexitet krävs avancerad genomik och statistik.
Vår forskning riktar huvudsakligen in sig mot förädling av skogens träd. Resultaten av forskningen syftar till att utveckla molekylära verktyg för en tidig selektion av egenskaper av ekonomiskt eller ekologiskt intresse, för att på så sätt kunna korta ner de långa cyklerna inom förädlingen av skogsträd.