Early works by Altukhov and his associates on pine and spruce laid the foundation for Russian population genetic studies on tree species with the use of molecular genetic markers. In recent years, these species have become especially popular as nontraditional eukaryotic models for population and evolutionary genome-wide research. Tree species with large, cross-pollinating native populations, high genetic and phenotypic variation, growing in diverse environments and affected by environmental changes during hundreds of years of their individual development, are an ideal model for studying the molecular genetic basis of adaptation. The great advance in this field is due to the rapid development of population genomics in the last few years. In the broad sense, population genomics is a novel, fast-developing discipline, combining traditional population genetic approaches with the genome-wide level of analysis. Thousands of genes with known function and sometimes known genome-wide localization can be simultaneously studied in many individuals. This opens new prospects for obtaining statistical estimates for a great number of genes and segregating elements. Mating system, gene exchange, reproductive population size, population disequilibrium, interaction among populations, and many other traditional problems of population genetics can be now studied using data on variation in many genes. Moreover, population genome-wide analysis allows one to distinguish factors that affect individual genes, allelles, or nucleotides (such as, for example, natural selection) from factors affecting the entire genome (e.g., demography). This paper presents a brief review of traditional methods of studying genetic variation in forest tree species and introduces a new, integrated population genomics approach. The main stages of the latter are: (1) selection of genes, which are tentatively involved in variation of adaptive traits, by means of a detailed examination of the regulation and the expression of individual genes and genotypes, with subsequent determination of their complete allelic composition by direct nucleotide sequencing; (2) examination of the phenotypic effects of individual alleles by, e.g., association mapping; and (3) determining the frequencies of the selected alleles in natural population for identification of the adaptive variation pattern in the heterogeneous environment. Through decoding the phenotypic effects of individual alleles and identification of adaptive variation patterns at the population level, population genomics in the future will serve as a very helpful, efficient, and economical tool, essential for developing a correct strategy for conserving and increasing forests and other commercially valuable plant and animal species.
Russian Journal of Genetics – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 7, 2006
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