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Altitudinal and Climatic Adaptation Is Mediated by Flowering Traits and FRI, FLC, and PHYC Genes in Arabidopsis

AuthorsMéndez-Vigo, Belén; Picó, F. Xavier ; Ramiro, Mercedes; Martínez-Zapater, José M. ; Alonso, Carlos
Issue DateDec-2011
PublisherAmerican Society of Plant Biologists
CitationPlant Physiology, 157, pp. 1942–1955 (2011)
AbstractExtensive natural variation has been described for the timing of flowering initiation in many annual plants, including the model wild species Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), which is presumed to be involved in adaptation to different climates. However, the environmental factors that might shape this genetic variation, as well as the molecular bases of climatic adaptation by modifications of flowering time, remain mostly unknown. To approach both goals, we characterized the flowering behavior in relation to vernalization of 182 Arabidopsis wild genotypes collected in a native region spanning a broad climatic range. Phenotype-environment association analyses identified strong altitudinal clines (0–2600 m) in seven out of nine flowering-related traits. Altitudinal clines were dissected in terms of minimum winter temperature and precipitation, indicating that these are the main climatic factors that might act as selective pressures on flowering traits. In addition, we used an association analysis approach with four candidate genes, FRIGIDA (FRI), FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC), PHYTOCHROME C (PHYC), and CRYPTOCHROME2, to decipher the genetic bases of this variation. Eleven different loss-of-function FRI alleles of low frequency accounted for up to 16% of the variation for most traits. Furthermore, an FLC allelic series of six novel putative loss- and change-of-function alleles, with low to moderate frequency, revealed that a broader FLC functional diversification might contribute to flowering variation. Finally, environment-genotype association analyses showed that the spatial patterns of FRI, FLC, and PHYC polymorphisms are significantly associated with winter temperatures and spring and winter precipi- tations, respectively. These results support that allelic variation in these genes is involved in climatic adaptation
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1104/pp.111.183426
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