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Decoding the complexity of natural variation for shoot growth and response to the environment in Arabidopsis thaliana

Abstract : Genotypes adapted to contrasting environments are expected to behave differently when placed in common controlled conditions, if their sensitivity to environmental cues or intrinsic growth behaviour are set to different thresholds, or are limited at distinct levels. This allows natural variation to be exploited as an unlimited source of new alleles or genes for the study of the genetic basis of quantitative trait variation. My doctoral work focuses on analysing natural variation for shoot growth and response to the environment in A. thaliana. Natural variation analyses aim at understanding how molecular genetic or epigenetic diversity controls phenotypic variation at different scales and times of plant development and under different environmental conditions, and how selection or demographic processes influence the frequency of those molecular variants in populations for them to get adapted to their local environment. As such, the analysis of A. thaliana natural variation can be addressed using a variety of approaches, from genetics and molecular methods to ecology and evolutionary questions. During my PhD, I got the chance to tackle several of those aspects through my contributions to three independent projects which have in common to exploit A. thaliana natural variation. The first one is the analysis of the pattern of polymorphism from a set of 102 A. thaliana accessions at the MOT1 gene coding for a molybdate transporter (an essential micronutrient) and responsible for contrasted growth and fitness among accessions in response to Mo availability in the soil. I showed at different geographical scales that MOT1 pattern of polymorphisms is not consistent with neutral evolution and shows signs of diversifying selection. This work helped reinforce the hypothesis that in some populations, mutations in MOT1 have been selected to face soils rich in Mo and potentially deleterious despite their negative effect on Mo-limiting soils. The second project consists in the characterisation and functional analysis of two putative receptor-like kinases (RLKs) identified from their effect on shoot growth specifically under mannitol-supplemented media and not in response to other osmotic constraints. The function of such RLKs in A. thaliana, which is not known to synthesize mannitol was intriguing at first but, through different experiments, we built the hypothesis that those RLKs could be activated by the mannitol produced by some pathogens such as fungi and participate to plant defensive response. The third project, in collaboration with Michel Vincentz’s team from CBMEG (Brasil) and Vincent Colot (IBENS, Paris), consists in the analysis of the occurrence of natural epigenetic variants of the QQS gene in different populations from Central Asia and their possible phenotypic and adaptive consequences. Overall, these analyses of the genetic and epigenetic molecular variation leading to the biomass phenotype(s) in interaction with the environment provide clues as to how and where in the pathways adaptation is shaping natural variation.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 1:13:12 PM
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Charlotte Trontin. Decoding the complexity of natural variation for shoot growth and response to the environment in Arabidopsis thaliana. Agricultural sciences. Université Paris Sud - Paris XI, 2013. English. ⟨NNT : 2013PA112066⟩. ⟨tel-00998373⟩

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