Genetic variation, environment and demography intersect to shape Arabidopsis defense metabolite variation across Europe

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Ella KatzDaniel J Kliebenstein


Plants face a variety of challenges within their ever-changing environment. Diverse metabolites are central to the plants ability to overcome these challenges. Understanding the environmental and genetic factors influencing the variation in specialized metabolites is the key to understand how plants survive and develop under changing environments. Here we measure the variation in specialized metabolites across a population of 797 natural Arabidopsis thaliana accessions. We show a combination of geography, environmental parameters, demography, and different genetic processes that creates a specific pattern in their accumulation and distribution. By identifying and tracking causal polymorphisms at multiple loci controlling metabolites variation we show that each locus displays extensive allelic heterogeneity with signatures of both parallel and convergent evolutionary processes. These loci combine epistatically and show differing relationships to environmental parameters leading to different distributions. This provides a detailed perspective about the complexity of the forces and mechanisms that shape the accumulation and distribution of a family of specialized metabolites critical for plant fitness.

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