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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Why we thrive beneath a northern sky - genomic signals of selection in apple for adaptation to northern Sweden

af Satra, J. Skytte; Garkava-Gustavsson, L.; Ingvarsson, P. K.


Good understanding of the genomic regions underlying adaptation of apple to boreal climates is needed to facilitate efficient breeding of locally adapted apple cultivars. Proper infrastructure for phenotyping and evaluation is essential for identification of traits responsible for adaptation, and dissection of their genetic composition. However, such infrastructure is costly and currently not available for the boreal zone of northern Sweden. Therefore, we used historical pomological data on climate adaptation of 59 apple cultivars and whole genome sequencing to identify genomic regions that have undergone historical selection among apple cultivars recommended for cultivation in northern Sweden. We found the apple collection to be composed of two ancestral groups that are largely concordant with the grouping into 'hardy' and 'not hardy' cultivars based on the pomological literature. Using a number of genome-wide scans for signals of selection, we obtained strong evidence of positive selection at a genomic region around 29 MbHFTH1 of chromosome 1 among apple cultivars in the 'hardy' group. Using phased genotypic data from the 20 K apple Infinium (R) SNP array, we identified haplotypes associated with the two cultivar groups and traced transmission of these haplotypes through the pedigrees of some apple cultivars. This demonstrates that historical data from pomological literature can be analyzed by population genomic approaches as a step towards revealing the genomic control of a key property for a horticultural niche market. Such knowledge is needed to facilitate efficient breeding strategies for development of locally adapted apple cultivars in the future. The current study illustrates the response to a very strong selective pressure imposed on tree crops by climatic factors, and the importance of genetic research on this topic and feasibility of breeding efforts in the light of the ongoing climate change.

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