Genome-wide association studies of bark texture in Populus trichocarpa

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Plants have developed bark as a defense barrier to deal with environmental stresses, such as pathogen invasion, drought, and UV radiation. Bark is composed of dead differentiated cells and is formed when radial expansion pushes the cortex and epidermis outward creating secondary meristem. However, the genetic control of this complex phenotype is generally unknown. Here, we use association mapping to define the genomic regions associated with natural variation in bark texture (BT) in Populus trichocarpa. Clonally replicated provenance trials of P. trichocarpa were studied for BT collected across three sites, multiple years, and (2–3) biological replicates per site. Forty-one genomic intervals containing SNPs significantly associated with BT were detected that were highly reproducible across sites, years, and replicates. A list of candidate genes within these regions with related putative function was identified. A total of 98 genes were considered candidate genes due to significance and putative function with connection to the phenotype. Association mapping using low coverage sequencing allowed us to detect narrow genomic intervals (1–20 kb) with high reproducibility and shared candidate genes. For example, a membrane-associated apoptosis protein and a wall-associated receptor kinase (PR5K-like) protein, which both are involved in radial growth and tissue differentiation, lie within significant trait-associated region. Two copies of root hair defective3 genes, transmembrane protein in Populus differentiating xylem and phloem, were also significantly associated with BT and co-located with major quantitative trait locus (QTL) for BT, bark thickness, and diameter from our previous study suggesting an important role in radial growth.

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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019. Publisher's version of record: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11295-019-1320-2

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Tree Genetics & Genomes