RP06: Natural DNA methylation variation in Fragaria vesca populations along climatological gradient

  • PhD Supervisor(s): Vítek Latzel, Zuzana Münzbergová
  • Host Institution: Institute of Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Průhonice near Praha, Czech Republic
  • Duration: 36 months with possible extension for another 12 months.
  • Fixed start date: 1 April 2018
  • Planned secondment(s): ecSeq Bioinformatics Leipzig (GE); Philipps Universitaet Marburg (GE); Institute National de la Recherche Agronomique, Angers (FR)

Plant trait variation is commonly assumed to be driven by DNA sequence variation. However, increasing body of evidence suggests that epigenetic variation such as DNA methylation can be additional mechanism that enables heritable trait variation. Epigenetic variation can be induced by environment and can be independent of genetic variation. Epigenetic variation may thus be an important factor in adaptation of natural populations that can operate at faster time scale than adaptation based on DNA sequence variation.

In this project, we will evaluate patterns of epigenetic variation of natural populations of wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca) along climatological gradient. We will screen methylation variants of samples taken from plants of natural populations and samples of the same clones that have been transferred to a common garden environment. This will allow characterizing epigenetic population structure, association of methylation variants with relevant ecological and climatic variables and comparison of epigenetic population structure determined by environmental induction relative to stably inherited methylation variation. In addition, we will evaluate the role of DNA methylation variation in local adaptation by conducting reciprocal transplant experiments using experimentally demethylated and naturally methylated plants. In cooperation with members of the EpiDiverse network we will also focus on the role of transposable elements in population differentiation and their responses to environmental stress.

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