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Supergene evolution in a classic plant system - bringing the study of distyly into the genomic era

Supergene evolution in a classic plant system - bringing the study of distyly into the genomic era

Objective

Understanding how adaptive combinations of traits are maintained is a central question in evolutionary biology. Supergenes are clusters of genes that can maintain favorable trait combinations because they are inherited as a unit. Studying supergenes allows us to address fundamental questions on the origin and evolution of complex adaptations and the effects of suppressed recombination, and is therefore of broad significance.

Distylous plants offer a particularly promising opportunity to study supergene evolution. In distylous plants there are two floral morphs that differ reciprocally in the placement of stigma and anthers. These character combinations are maintained by a supergene, the distyly S-locus. While distyly has interested many generations of biologists, we still know little about the origin and evolution of this supergene, and progress on this front has been hampered by the lack of molecular genetic data on the S-locus.

Here, we aim to make full use of the latest advances in genome sequencing technology to bring the study of distyly into the genomic era. Specifically, we will develop the classic Linum genus as a model for supergene evolution. We will first combine de novo assembly of the genomes of six Linum species with genetic studies to identify S-linked regions. Then, we will test whether the S-locus exhibits similarities to sex chromosomes with respect to recombination suppression, genetic degeneration and gene expression evolution. Finally, we will investigate the genetic causes and population genetic consequences of recurrent loss of distyly in Linum.

The high-quality genome assemblies produced during this project will pave the way for future studies of the molecular basis of adaptive floral differences first identified by Darwin. The results from this project are of great general importance for our understanding of the evolution of coadapted gene complexes and will shed new light on the important and fascinating phenomenon of supergenes.
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Host institution

STOCKHOLMS UNIVERSITET

Address

Universitetsvagen 10
10691 Stockholm

Sweden

Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 1 475 636

Beneficiaries (1)

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STOCKHOLMS UNIVERSITET

Sweden

EU Contribution

€ 1 475 636

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 757451

Status

Ongoing project

  • Start date

    1 January 2018

  • End date

    31 December 2022

Funded under:

H2020-EU.1.1.

  • Overall budget:

    € 1 475 636

  • EU contribution

    € 1 475 636

Hosted by:

STOCKHOLMS UNIVERSITET

Sweden