Clone history shapes Populus drought responses

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Jul 26;108(30):12521-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1103341108. Epub 2011 Jul 11.


Just as animal monozygotic twins can experience different environmental conditions by being reared apart, individual genetically identical trees of the genus Populus can also be exposed to contrasting environmental conditions by being grown in different locations. As such, clonally propagated Populus trees provide an opportunity to interrogate the impact of individual environmental history on current response to environmental stimuli. To test the hypothesis that current responses to an environmental stimulus, drought, are contingent on environmental history, the transcriptome- level drought responses of three economically important hybrid genotypes-DN34 (Populus deltoides × Populus nigra), Walker [P. deltoides var. occidentalis × (Populus laurifolia × P. nigra)], and Okanese [Walker × (P. laurifolia × P. nigra)]-derived from two different locations were compared. Strikingly, differences in transcript abundance patterns in response to drought were based on differences in geographic origin of clones for two of the three genotypes. This observation was most pronounced for the genotypes with the longest time since establishment and last common propagation. Differences in genome-wide DNA methylation paralleled the transcriptome level trends, whereby the clones with the most divergent transcriptomes and clone history had the most marked differences in the extent of total DNA methylation, suggesting an epigenomic basis for the clone history-dependent transcriptome divergence. The data provide insights into the interplay between genotype and environment in the ecologically and economically important Populus genus, with implications for the industrial application of Populus trees and the evolution and persistence of these important tree species and their associated hybrids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / genetics
  • Acclimatization / physiology
  • Base Sequence
  • Cloning, Organism
  • DNA Methylation
  • DNA, Plant / genetics
  • DNA, Plant / metabolism
  • Droughts
  • Ecosystem
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genotype
  • Hybridization, Genetic
  • Models, Biological
  • Populus / genetics*
  • Populus / physiology*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA, Plant / genetics
  • RNA, Untranslated / genetics


  • DNA, Plant
  • RNA, Plant
  • RNA, Untranslated