Transcriptional and biochemical signatures of divergence in natural populations of two species of New Zealand alpine Pachycladon


Claudia Voelckel, Fax: +64 6350 5626; E-mail:


New Zealand is diverse in alpine and subalpine environments, a consequence of Late Tertiary tectonic and climatic change. However, few studies have sought to evaluate the importance of these environments as abiotic drivers in the diversification of plant species. Of particular interest is the Late Tertiary radiation of Pachycladon, an endemic New Zealand genus of alpine cress. Here we report observations on genome-wide levels of differential expression measured in the habitats of two closely related species of Pachycladon with distinct altitudinal preferences. Using Arabidopsis microarrays, we have identified 310 predominantly hormone- and stress-response genes up-regulated in Pachycladon fastigiata and 324 genes up-regulated in Pachycladon enysii. Expression patterns for glucosinolate biosynthesis and hydrolysis genes (MAM1, MAM-I, MAM-D, AOP2, ESP, ESM1) as well as flavonoid biosynthesis genes (F3’H, FLS, FAH1) were found to be species specific. Predicted differences in flavonoid contents were partly confirmed by high performance liquid chromatography analysis. Differences in glucosinolate profiles and glucosinolate hydrolysis products obtained by high performance liquid chromatography and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry analysis, respectively, also supported inferences from expression analyses. Five glucosinolate chemotypes were matched to known Arabidopsis ecotypes, and the potential adaptive significance of these chemotypes has been discussed. Our findings, in contrast to expectations for evolution of the New Zealand flora, suggest that biotic drivers, such as plant–herbivore interactions, are likely to be as important as abiotic drivers in the diversification of Pachycladon.