The molecular basis of quantitative variation in foliar secondary metabolites in Eucalyptus globulus


Author for correspondence:
Carsten Külheim
Tel: +61 2 61257190


  • Eucalyptus is characterized by high foliar concentrations of plant secondary metabolites with marked qualitative and quantitative variation within a single species. Secondary metabolites in eucalypts are important mediators of a diverse community of herbivores.
  • We used a candidate gene approach to investigate genetic associations between 195 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from 24 candidate genes and 33 traits related to secondary metabolites in the Tasmanian Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus).
  • We discovered 37 significant associations (false discovery rate (FDR) < 0.05) across 11 candidate genes and 19 traits. The effects of SNPs on phenotypic variation were within the expected range (0.018 < r< 0.061) for forest trees. Whereas most marker effects were nonadditive, two alleles from two consecutive genes in the methylerythritol phosphate pathway (MEP) showed additive effects.
  • This study successfully links allelic variants to ecologically important phenotypes which can have a large impact on the entire community. It is one of very few studies to identify the genetic variants of a foundation tree that influences ecosystem function.