Massive haplotypes underlie ecotypic differentiation in sunflowers
This week we discuss a paper on structural genomic variation. The study reports on resequencing of >1000 wild sunflowers and finds large non-recombining haplotype blocks that are associated with ecologically relevant traits and soil and climate characteristics.
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Link to paper:
Species often include multiple ecotypes that are adapted to different environments1. However, it is unclear how ecotypes arise and how their distinctive combinations of adaptive alleles are maintained despite hybridization with non-adapted populations2,3,4. Here, by resequencing 1,506 wild sunflowers from 3 species (Helianthus annuus, Helianthus petiolaris and Helianthus argophyllus), we identify 37 large (1–100 Mbp in size), non-recombining haplotype blocks that are associated with numerous ecologically relevant traits, as well as soil and climate characteristics. Limited recombination in these haplotype blocks keeps adaptive alleles together, and these regions differentiate sunflower ecotypes. For example, haplotype blocks control a 77-day difference in flowering between ecotypes of the silverleaf sunflower H. argophyllus (probably through deletion of a homologue of FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT)), and are associated with seed size, flowering time and soil fertility in dune-adapted sunflowers. These haplotypes are highly divergent, frequently associated with structural variants and often appear to represent introgressions from other—possibly now-extinct—congeners. These results highlight a pervasive role of structural variation in ecotypic adaptation.