Main research question/goal
Which genomic variation can be found in Sysimbrium austriacum (Jeweled rocket) populations from different regions? S. austriacum is an exotic species that has rencently spread along the Meuse, where conditions differ greatly from those in the area of origin of the species in the Pyrenees. The species was introduced more than a century ago near Verviers, probably together with sheep wool imported from Spain. This study contributes to our understanding on how genetic adaptation occurs over generations in exotic plant species in their new environment. Recent research reveals that spontaneous genetic adaptation is possible within 20 generations, and that genetic adaptation often precedes the spread of exotic plant species in a new environment. This project consists of an integrated ecological-genomics study of native and introduced S. Austriacum populations. Our goal is to study the likely nature of adaptation in this species.Research approach
ILVO conducts this research, together with a number of scientific partners, in the framework of a FWO postdoctoral fellowhip awarded to Dr. Katrien Vandepitte (KU Leuven), and under the lead of Prof. Oliverif Honnay (KU Leuven). Three strategies are combined: A) reciprocal transplantation experiments in the field, B) analyses of genomic variation in coding sequences, and C) fitness characterization under controlled growth conditions. ILVO-Plant is involved in the analysis of genomic variation of S. Austriacum populations from different regions. The DNA of a subset of plants is sequenced using nex generation sequencing technologies. This information is then used to develop SNP markers to genotype individual plants. This EST(Expressed Sequence Tags)-based approach increases the chance of identifying loci which are under selection, making the study of the genetic basis of adaptation possible.
Human activities and globalization are increasingly introducing plants far beyond their natural range. Once established, some species become invasive, posing a major threat to the local biodiversity. Knowledge of the genetic adaptation strategy of a plant species may provide useful information for the devleopment of cotnrol strategies for invasive alien species.