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Keywords:

  • AFLP;
  • Arabidopsis thaliana;
  • biogeography;
  • linkage disequilibrium;
  • postglacial colonization

Abstract

Arabidopsis thaliana provides a useful model system for functional, evolutionary and ecological studies in plant biology. We have analysed natural genetic variation in A. thaliana in order to infer its biogeographical and historical distribution across Eurasia. We analysed 79 amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers in 142 accessions from the species’ native range, and found highly significant genetic isolation by distance among A. thaliana accessions from Eurasia and southern Europe. These spatial patterns of genetic variation suggest that A. thaliana colonized central and northern Europe from Asia and from Mediterranean Pleistocene refugia, a trend which has been identified in other species. Statistically significant levels of multilocus linkage disequilibrium suggest intermediate levels of disequilibrium among subsets of loci, and analysis of genetic relationships among accessions reveal a star or bush-like dendrogram with low bootstrap support. Taken together, it appears that there has been sufficient historical recombination in the A. thaliana genome such that accessions do not conform to a tree-like, bifurcating pattern of evolution – there is no ‘ecotype phylogeny.’ Nonetheless, significant isolation by distance provides a framework upon which studies of natural variation in A. thaliana may be designed and interpreted.