ERA-CAPS project submitted

A new collaborative proposal has been submitted to CAPS-ERANET under the title ‘Molecular adaptation to biotic and abiotic stressors in the context of range expansion and rapid climate change’. This project is participated by most of the Mercurialis community, including:

University of Lausanne (DEE and DBMV Departments), Lausanne – Switzerland
National Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Technology (INIA), Madrid – Spain
Centre for Ecological Research (CREAF-UAB), Barcelona – Spain
Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), Louvain-la-Neuve – Belgium
Heidelberg University (COS-HD), Heidelberg – Germany
Institute of Soil Science and Plant Cultivation – State Research Institute (IUNG), Pulawy – Poland
Tel Aviv University (TAU), Tel Aviv – Israel
National Research Council (CNR), Firenze – Italy
Université Montpellier 2 (ISEM-UM2), Montpellier – France
Université Lille 1 (GEPV-Lille), Lille – France

The project summary follows:

Plants that have expanded their geographic ranges tend to show lower genetic diversity at their new range margins, and thus may have lost their adaptive potential as a result of the repeated genetic bottlenecks that occur during colonisation. In outcrossing species, however, range-edge populations might maintain sufficient genetic variation for continued responses to selection, either because colonisation bottlenecks are less severe for outcrossers, or because outcrossing facilitates continued gene flow into range-edge populations from elsewhere. We propose to test this hypothesis by studying the impact of range expansions and natural selection on the genome and patterns of gene expression of the European plant Mercurialis annua, a wind-pollinated dioecious (and thus outcrossing) annual plant that currently occupies a wide environmental range in Europe following range expansion from an eastern Mediterranean refugium. To test recent theory about how local adaptation interacts with range shifts at the genomic level, we will carry out genome and transcriptome analysis of natural and evolved genotypes in a set of common gardens established along range-expansion routes and environmental gradients across Europe and the eastern Mediterranean Basin. Specifically, we will evaluate the consequences of range expansions on the accumulation of deleterious vs. beneficial mutations in the context of genes and gene networks associated with responses to biotic and abiotic stressors in regions with contrasting climates. We will also estimate the potential for evolution in range-edge populations and their level of genomic and transcriptomic differentiation from ancestral populations. We will relate our results to phenotypic differentiation and fitness, addressing the question as to whether adaptive molecular variants are typically new mutations or arise from standing genetic variation. Finally, our project will assess the merit of active transplantation of genotypes among different geographical regions (i.e., genetic admixture) to facilitate new and rapid adaptive evolutionary responses to extremes in climatic tolerance. This will allow an evaluation of the effects on plant performance of potential heterosis and outbreeding depression (i.e., positive and negative genetic interactions) brought about by such admixture. Our project will establish at a genomic and transcriptomic level how plant populations respond to challenges from abiotic and biotic stressors brought about by climate change in the European context.

Let’s cross fingers!