What can patterns of differentiation across plant genomes tell us about adaptation and speciation?

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2012 Feb 5;367(1587):364-73. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0199.


Genome scans have become a common approach to identify genomic signatures of natural selection and reproductive isolation, as well as the genomic bases of ecologically relevant phenotypes, based on patterns of polymorphism and differentiation among populations or species. Here, we review the results of studies taking genome scan approaches in plants, consider the patterns of genomic differentiation documented and their possible causes, discuss the results in light of recent models of genomic differentiation during divergent adaptation and speciation, and consider assumptions and caveats in their interpretation. We find that genomic regions of high divergence generally appear quite small in comparisons of both closely and more distantly related populations, and for the most part, these differentiated regions are spread throughout the genome rather than strongly clustered. Thus, the genome scan approach appears well-suited for identifying genomic regions or even candidate genes that underlie adaptive divergence and/or reproductive barriers. We consider other methodologies that may be used in conjunction with genome scan approaches, and suggest further developments that would be valuable. These include broader use of sequence-based markers of known genomic location, greater attention to sampling strategies to make use of parallel environmental or phenotypic transitions, more integration with approaches such as quantitative trait loci mapping and measures of gene flow across the genome, and additional theoretical and simulation work on processes related to divergent adaptation and speciation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological / genetics
  • Gene Flow
  • Genetic Speciation*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genetics, Population
  • Genome, Plant*
  • Genomics / methods
  • Magnoliopsida / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Quantitative Trait Loci
  • Reproductive Isolation
  • Selection, Genetic