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November 2016


Natural plant populations are often adapted to their local climate and environmental conditions, and populations of forest trees offer some of the best examples of this pattern. However, little empirical work has focused on the relative contribution of single-locus versus multilocus effects to the genetic architecture of local adaptation in plants/forest trees. Here, we employ eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) to test the hypothesis that it is the inter-genic effects that primarily drive climate-induced local adaptation. The genetic structure of 29 range-wide natural populations of eastern white pine was determined in relation to local climatic factors using both a reference set of SSR markers, and SNPs located in candidate genes putatively involved in adaptive response to climate. Comparisons were made between marker sets using standard single-locus outlier analysis, single-locus and multilocus environment association analyses and a novel implementation of Population Graphs. Magnitudes of population structure were similar between the two marker sets. Outlier loci consistent with diversifying selection were rare for both SNPs and SSRs. However, genetic distances based on the multilocus among population covariances (cGD) were significantly more correlated to climate, even after correcting for spatial effects, for SNPs as compared to SSRs. Coalescent simulations confirmed that the differences in mutation rates between SSRs and SNPs did not affect the topologies of the Population Graphs, and hence values of cGD and their correlations with associated climate variables. We conclude that the multilocus covariances among populations primarily reflect adaptation to local climate and environment in eastern white pine. This result highlights the complexity of the genetic architecture of adaptive traits, as well as the need to consider multilocus effects in studies of local adaptation.


Copyright: © 2016 Rajora et al.

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