Investigation of the geographical scale of adaptive phenological variation and its underlying genetics in Arabidopsis thaliana

Benjamin Brachi, Romain Villoutreix, Nathalie Faure, Nina Hautekèete, Yves Piquot, Maxime Pauwels, Dominique Roby, Joël Cuguen, Joy Bergelson, Fabrice Roux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the increasing number of genomic tools, identifying the genetics underlying adaptive complex traits remains challenging in the model species Arabidopsis thaliana. This is due, at least in part, to the lack of data on the geographical scale of adaptive phenotypic variation. The aims of this study were (i) to tease apart the historical roles of adaptive and nonselective processes in shaping phenological variation in A. thaliana in France and (ii) to gain insights into the spatial scale of adaptive variation by identifying the putative selective agents responsible for this selection. Forty-nine natural stands from four climatically contrasted French regions were characterized (i) phenologically for six traits, (ii) genetically using 135 SNP markers and (iii) ecologically for 42 variables. Up to 63% of phenological variation could be explained by neutral genetic diversity. The remaining phenological variation displayed stronger associations with ecological variation within regions than among regions, suggesting the importance of local selective agents in shaping adaptive phenological variation. Although climatic conditions have often been suggested as the main selective agents acting on phenology in A. thaliana, both edaphic conditions and interspecific competition appear to be strong selective agents in some regions. In a first attempt to identify the genetics of phenological variation at different geographical scales, we phenotyped worldwide accessions and local polymorphic populations from the French RegMap in a genome-wide association (GWA) mapping study. The genomic regions associated with phenological variation depended upon the geographical scale considered, stressing the need to account for the scale of adaptive phenotypic variation when choosing accession panels for GWAS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4222-4240
Number of pages19
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Arabidopsis thaliana
  • adaptation
  • ecology
  • flowering time
  • selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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