1. If we are to understand the mechanisms underlying species responses to climate change in natural systems, studies are needed that focus on responses of non-model species under field conditions. We measured transcriptional profiles of individuals of Andropogon gerardii, a C4 grass native to North American grasslands, in a field experiment in which both temperature and precipitation were manipulated to simulate key aspects of forecasted climate change.
2. By using microarrays developed for a closely related model species, Zea mays, we were able to compare the relative influence of warming versus altered soil moisture availability on expression levels of over 7000 genes, identify responsive functional groups of genes and correlate changes in gene transcription with physiological responses.
3. We observed more statistically significant shifts in transcription levels of genes in response to thermal stress than in response to water stress. We also identified candidate genes that demonstrated transcription levels closely associated with physiological variables, in particular chlorophyll fluorescence.
4.Synthesis. These results suggest that an ecologically important species responds differently to different environmental aspects of forecast climate change. These translational changes have the potential to influence phenotypic characters and ultimately adaptive responses.