Plant eco-devo: the potential of poplar as a model organism

Authors

  • Q. C. B. Cronk

    Corresponding author
    1. Botanical Garden and Center for Plant Research, University of British Columbia, 6804 SW Marine Drive, Vancouver BC, Canada V6T 1Z4
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Author for correspondence: Q. C. B. Cronk Tel: +1 604 827 5131 Fax: +1 604 822 2016 Email: quentin.cronk@ubc.ca

Summary

Ecological developmental genetics is the study of how ecologically significant traits originate in the genome and how the allelic combinations responsible are maintained in populations and species. Plant development involves a continuous feedback between growth and environment and the success of individual genotype × environment interactions determines the passage of alleles to the next generation: the adaptive recursion. Outbreeding plants contain a large amount of genetic variation, mostly in the form of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). One of the challenges of eco-devo is to distinguish neutral SNPs from those with ecological consequences. The complete genome sequence of Populus trichocarpa Torr. & A. Gray will be a significant aid in this endeavour. Occurring from California to Alaska, this is the first ecologically ‘keystone’ species to be sequenced. It has a rich natural history and is an obligate outbreeder. The individual sequenced, Nisqually-1, appears to be heterozygous on average about every 100 bp over the c. 500 million bp of the genome. Overlaid on this within-individual variation is some ecologically based between-individual genotypic variation evident across the distribution of the species. The synthesis of information from genomics and ecology is now in prospect. This ‘ecomolecular synthesis’ is likely to provide a rich insight into the genomic basis of plant adaptation.

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