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AVE - adaptive genetic variation and plant adaptation to environmental heterogeneity



With this SNF-supported SINERGIA project, we investigate adaptation to environmental heterogeneity from an ecological, landscape genetic and functional genomic perspective. Environmental heterogeneity is pronounced in alpine areas, where conditions often change over small geographic distances as a consequence of differences in altitude, exposition, bedrock, snow cover or water availability. We study adaptive genetic variation in Arabis alpina, Cardaminopsis halleri, and Cardamine resedifolia, all members of the Brassicaceae and thus related to the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana. The study species show contrasting mating systems, life histories or elevational distributions, which make them suitable for comparative analyses of parallel adaptation. We assess natural genetic variation in multiple natural populations collected in landscapes covering wide environmental heterogeneity. Nucleotide variation is charachterized through genome re-sequencing of pooled samples (PoolSeq).

The overarching questions

(1) What is the genetic basis of adaptation to environmental heterogeneity?

(2) Do the same loci contribute to adaptation in related species?

(3) What is the adaptive value of candidate genes?

With respect to these questions, we hypothesize that

(4) major genes contribute substantially to adaptation;

(5) the same genes (or gene families) are involved in adaptation to the same environmental factor in different species;

(6) some of the identified candidate genes cause above-average fitness in their native environment, but below-average fitness in other environments.