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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

The genetic basis of adaptation in phenology in an introduced population of Black Cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa, Torr. & Gray)

Apuli, Rami-Petteri; Richards, Thomas; Rendon-Anaya, Martha; Karacic, Almir; Ronnberg-Wastljung, Ann-Christin; Ingvarsson, Par K.


BackgroundEntering and exiting winter dormancy present important trade-offs between growth and survival at northern latitudes. Many forest trees display local adaptation across latitude in traits associated with these phenology transitions. Transfers of a species outside its native range introduce the species to novel combinations of environmental conditions potentially requiring different combinations of alleles to optimize growth and survival. In this study, we performed genome wide association analyses and a selection scan in a P. trichocarpa mapping population derived from crossings between clones collected across the native range and introduced into Sweden. GWAS analyses were performed using phenotypic data collected across two field seasons and in a controlled phytotron experiment.ResultsWe uncovered 584 putative candidate genes associated with spring and autumn phenology traits as well as with growth. Many regions harboring variation significantly associated with the initiation of leaf shed and leaf autumn coloring appeared to have been evolving under positive selection in the native environments of P. trichocarpa. A comparison between the candidate genes identified with results from earlier GWAS analyses performed in the native environment found a smaller overlap for spring phenology traits than for autumn phenology traits, aligning well with earlier observations that spring phenology transitions have a more complex genetic basis than autumn phenology transitions.ConclusionsIn a small and structured introduced population of P. trichocarpa, we find complex genetic architectures underlying all phenology and growth traits, and identify multiple putative candidate genes despite the limitations of the study population.


Populus trichocarpa; Phenology; Local adaptation; Bud burst; Leaf senescence; Introduced population

Published in

BMC Plant Biology
2021, Volume: 21, number: 1, article number: 317Publisher: BMC