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Keywords:

  • Arabidopsis thaliana;
  • gene flow;
  • isolation by distance;
  • linkage disequilibrium;
  • population structure

Abstract

The genetic diversity and population structure of Arabidopsis thaliana populations from Norway were studied and compared to a worldwide sample of A. thaliana to investigate the demographic history and elucidate possible colonization routes of populations at the northernmost species limit. We genotyped 282 individuals from 31 local populations using 149 single nucleotide polymorphism markers. A high level of population subdivision (FST = 0.85 ± 0.007) was found indicating that A. thaliana is highly structured at the regional level. Significant relationships between genetic and geographical distances were found, suggesting an isolation by distance mode of evolution. Genetic diversity was much lower, and the level of linkage disequilibrium was higher in populations from the north (65–68°N) compared to populations from the south (59–62°N); this is consistent with a northward expansion pattern. A neighbour-joining tree showed that populations from northern Norway form a separate cluster, while the remaining populations are distributed over a few minor clusters. Minimal gene flow seems to have occurred between populations in different regions, especially between the geographically distant northern and southern populations. Our data suggest that northern populations represent a homogenous group that may have been established from a few founders during northward expansions, while populations in the central part of Norway constitute an admixed group established by founders of different origins, most probably as a result of human-mediated gene flow. Moreover, Norwegian populations appeared to be homogenous and isolated compared to a worldwide sample of A. thaliana, but they are still grouped with Swedish populations, which may indicate common colonization histories.