skip to main content

Title: Distinct Cold Acclimation of Productivity Traits in Arabidopsis thaliana Ecotypes
Improvement of crop climate resilience will require an understanding of whole-plant adaptation to specific local environments. This review places features of plant form and function related to photosynthetic productivity, as well as associated gene-expression patterns, into the context of the adaptation of Arabidopsis thaliana ecotypes to local environments with different climates in Sweden and Italy. The growth of plants under common cool conditions resulted in a proportionally greater emphasis on the maintenance of photosynthetic activity in the Swedish ecotype. This is compared to a greater emphasis on downregulation of light-harvesting antenna size and upregulation of a host of antioxidant enzymes in the Italian ecotype under these conditions. This differential response is discussed in the context of the climatic patterns of the ecotypes’ native habitats with substantial opportunity for photosynthetic productivity under mild temperatures in Italy but not in Sweden. The Swedish ecotype’s response is likened to pushing forward at full speed with productivity under low temperature versus the Italian ecotype’s response of staying safe from harm (maintaining redox homeostasis) while letting productivity decline when temperatures are transiently cold. It is concluded that either strategy can offer directions for the development of climate-resilient crops for specific locations of cultivation.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
International Journal of Molecular Sciences
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Premise

    Despite myriad examples of local adaptation, the phenotypes and genetic variants underlying such adaptive differentiation are seldom known. Recent work on freezing tolerance and local adaptation in ecotypes ofArabidopsis thalianafrom Italy and Sweden provides an essential foundation for uncovering the genotype–phenotype–fitness map for an adaptive response to a key environmental stress.


    We examined the consequences of a naturally occurring loss‐of‐function (LOF) mutation in an Italian allele of the gene that encodes the transcription factorCBF2,which underlies a major freezing‐tolerance locus. We used four lines with a Swedish genetic background, each containing aLOFCBF2allele. Two lines had introgression segments containing the ItalianCBF2allele, and two contained deletions created usingCRISPR‐Cas9. We used a growth chamber experiment to quantify freezing tolerance and gene expression before and after cold acclimation.


    Freezing tolerance was lower in the Italian (11%) compared to the Swedish (72%) ecotype, and all four experimentalCBF2LOFlines had reduced freezing tolerance compared to the Swedish ecotype. Differential expression analyses identified 10 genes for which allCBF2LOFlines, and theITecotype had similar patterns of reduced cold responsive expression compared to theSWecotype.


    We identified 10 genes that are at least partially regulated byCBF2that may contribute to the differences in cold‐acclimated freezing tolerance between the Italian and Swedish ecotypes. These results provide novel insight into the molecular and physiological mechanisms connecting a naturally occurring sequence polymorphism to an adaptive response to freezing conditions.

    more » « less
  2. Identifying the genetic basis of local adaptation and fitness trade-offs across environments is a central goal of evolutionary biology. Cold acclimation is an adaptive plastic response for surviving seasonal freezing, and costs of acclimation may be a general mechanism for fitness trade-offs across environments in temperate zone species. Starting with locally adapted ecotypes ofArabidopsis thalianafrom Italy and Sweden, we examined the fitness consequences of a naturally occurring functional polymorphism inCBF2. This gene encodes a transcription factor that is a major regulator of cold-acclimated freezing tolerance and resides within a locus responsible for a genetic trade-off for long-term mean fitness. We estimated the consequences of alternate genotypes ofCBF2on 5-y mean fitness and fitness components at the native field sites by comparing near-isogenic lines with alternate genotypes ofCBF2to their genetic background ecotypes. The effects ofCBF2were validated at the nucleotide level using gene-edited lines in the native genetic backgrounds grown in simulated parental environments. The foreignCBF2genotype in the local genetic background reduced long-term mean fitness in Sweden by more than 10%, primarily via effects on survival. In Italy, fitness was reduced by more than 20%, primarily via effects on fecundity. At both sites, the effects were temporally variable and much stronger in some years. The gene-edited lines confirmed thatCBF2encodes the causal variant underlying this genetic trade-off. Additionally, we demonstrated a substantial fitness cost of cold acclimation, which has broad implications for potential maladaptive responses to climate change.

    more » « less
  3. Arias, Renee S. (Ed.)

    Due to climate change, drought frequencies and severities are predicted to increase across the United States. Plant responses and adaptation to stresses depend on plant genetic and environmental factors. Understanding the effect of those factors on plant performance is required to predict species’ responses to environmental change. We used reciprocal gardens planted with distinct regional ecotypes of the perennial grassAndropogon gerardiiadapted to dry, mesic, and wet environments to characterize their rhizosphere communities using 16S rRNA metabarcode sequencing. Even though the local microbial pool was the main driver of these rhizosphere communities, the significant plant ecotypic effect highlighted active microbial recruitment in the rhizosphere, driven by ecotype or plant genetic background. Our data also suggest that ecotypes planted at their homesites were more successful in recruiting rhizosphere community members that were unique to the location. The link between the plants’ homesite and the specific local microbes supported the “home field advantage” hypothesis. The unique homesite microbes may represent microbial specialists that are linked to plant stress responses. Furthermore, our data support ecotypic variation in the recruitment of congeneric but distinct bacterial variants, highlighting the nuanced plant ecotype effects on rhizosphere microbiome recruitment. These results improve our understanding of the complex plant host–soil microbe interactions and should facilitate further studies focused on exploring the functional potential of recruited microbes. Our study has the potential to aid in predicting grassland ecosystem responses to climate change and impact restoration management practices to promote grassland sustainability.


    In this study, we used reciprocal gardens located across a steep precipitation gradient to characterize rhizosphere communities of distinct dry, mesic, and wet regional ecotypes of the perennial grassAndropogon gerardii. We used 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing and focused oligotyping analysis and showed that even though location was the main driver of the microbial communities, ecotypes could potentially recruit distinct bacterial populations. We showed that differentA. gerardiiecotypes were more successful in overall community recruitment and recruitment of microbes unique to the “home” environment, when growing at their “home site.” We found evidence for “home-field advantage” interactions between the host and host–root-associated bacterial communities, and the capability of ecotypes to recruit specialized microbes that were potentially linked to plant stress responses. Our study aids in a better understanding of the factors that affect plant adaptation, improve management strategies, and predict grassland function under the changing climate.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    There is considerable evidence for local adaptation in nature, yet important questions remain regarding its genetic basis. How many loci are involved? What are their effect sizes? What is the relative importance of conditional neutrality versus genetic trade‐offs? Here we address these questions in the self‐pollinating, annual plantArabidopsis thaliana. We used 400 recombinant inbred lines (RILs) derived from two locally adapted populations in Italy and Sweden, grew the RILs and parents at the parental locations, and mapped quantitative trait loci (QTL) for mean fitness (fruits/seedling planted). We previously published results from the first 3 years of the study, and here add five additional years, providing a unique opportunity to assess how temporal variation in selection might affect QTL detection and classification. We found 10 adaptive and one maladaptive QTL in Italy, and six adaptive and four maladaptive QTL in Sweden. The discovery of maladaptive QTL at both sites suggests that even locally adapted populations are not always at their genotypic optimum. Mean effect sizes for adaptive QTL, 0.97 and 0.55 fruits in Italy and Sweden, respectively, were large relative to the mean fitness of the RILs (approximately 8 fruits/seedling planted at both sites). Both genetic trade‐offs (four cases) and conditional neutrality (seven cases) contribute to local adaptation in this system. The 8‐year dataset provided greater power to detect QTL and to estimate their locations compared to our previous 3‐year study, identifying one new genetic trade‐off and resolving one genetic trade‐off into two conditionally adaptive QTL.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract Alaska has diverse boreal ecosystems across heterogeneous landscapes driven by a wide range of biological and geomorphic processes associated with disturbance and successional patterns under a changing climate. To assess historical patterns and rates of change, we quantified the areal extent of ecotypes and the biophysical factors driving change through photo-interpretation of 2200 points on a time-series (∼1949, ∼1978, ∼2007, ∼2017) of geo-rectified imagery for 22 grids across central Alaska. Overall, 68.6% of the area had changes in ecotypes over ∼68 years. Most of the change resulted from increases in upland and lowland forest types, with an accompanying decrease in upland and lowland scrub types, as post-fire succession led to mid- and late-successional stages. Of 17 drivers of landscape change, fire was by far the largest, affecting 46.5% of the region overall from 1949 to 2017. Fire was notably more extensive in the early 1900s. Thermokarst nearly doubled from 3.9% in 1949 to 6.3% in 2017. Riverine ecotypes covered 7.8% area and showed dynamic changes related to channel migration and succession. Using past rates of ecotype transitions, we developed four state-transition models to project future ecotype extent based on historical rates, increasing temperatures, and driver associations. Ecotype changes from 2017 to 2100, nearly tripled for the driver-adjusted RCP6.0 temperature model (30.6%) compared to the historical rate model (11.5%), and the RCP4.5 (12.4%) and RCP8.0 (14.7%) temperature models. The historical-rate model projected 38 ecotypes will gain area and 24 will lose area by 2100. Overall, disturbance and recovery associated with a wide range of drivers across the patchy mosaic of differing aged ecotypes led to a fairly stable overall composition of most ecotypes over long intervals, although fire caused large temporal fluctuations for many ecotypes. Thermokarst, however, is accelerating and projected to have increasingly transformative effects on future ecotype distributions. 
    more » « less