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Epigenetic variation predicts regional and local intraspecific functional diversity in a perennial herb

AuthorsMedrano, Mónica CSIC ORCID; Herrera, Carlos M. CSIC ORCID; Bazaga, Pilar CSIC ORCID
KeywordsMarker-trait association analysis
Intraspecific variation
Helleborus foetidus
Functional diversity
Epigenetic diversity
DNA methylation
Community genetics
Issue Date2014
PublisherBlackwell Publishing
CitationMolecular Ecology 23: 4926- 4938 (2014)
AbstractThe ecological significance of epigenetic variation has been generally inferred from studies on model plants under artificial conditions, but the importance of epigenetic differences between individuals as a source of intraspecific diversity in natural plant populations remains essentially unknown. This study investigates the relationship between epigenetic variation and functional plant diversity by conducting epigenetic (methylation-sensitive amplified fragment length polymorphisms, MSAP) and genetic (amplified fragment length polymorphisms, AFLP) marker-trait association analyses for 20 whole-plant, leaf and regenerative functional traits in a large sample of wild-growing plants of the perennial herb Helleborus foetidus from ten sampling sites in south-eastern Spain. Plants differed widely in functional characteristics, and exhibited greater epigenetic than genetic diversity, as shown by per cent polymorphism of MSAP fragments (92%) or markers (69%) greatly exceeding that for AFLP ones (41%). After controlling for genetic structuring and possible cryptic relatedness, every functional trait considered exhibited a significant association with at least one AFLP or MSAP marker. A total of 27 MSAP (13.0% of total) and 12 AFLP (4.4%) markers were involved in significant associations, which explained on average 8.2% and 8.0% of trait variance, respectively. Individual MSAP markers were more likely to be associated with functional traits than AFLP markers. Between-site differences in multivariate functional diversity were directly related to variation in multilocus epigenetic diversity after multilocus genetic diversity was statistically accounted for. Results suggest that epigenetic variation can be an important source of intraspecific functional diversity in H. foetidus, possibly endowing this species with the capacity to exploit a broad range of ecological conditions despite its modest genetic diversity.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1111/mec.12911
issn: 1365-294X
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