MGPP-Logo U. Krämer M. Piotrowski O. Soltani Vinod Kumar Natalia Wozniak Usman Anwer Fakultät

SPP1819 Rapid Evolutionary Adaptation

Rapid Evolution of Plant Tolerance to Anthropogenic Copper Pollution

Soils contaminated with high levels of heavy metals from human mining and industrial activities are toxic to living organisms and represent a considerable risk for ecosystems and for human health. Remarkably, these soils are also classical sites of rapid evolution of heavy metal tolerances in plants subsequent to the historical man-made pollution events, which has puzzled evolutionary scientists for decades. Here we examine the evolutionary processes underlying instances of rapid evolution of heavy metal tolerance in plants.

As a model, this project specifically addresses copper tolerance in Arabidopsis halleri, a species that is among the closest relatives of the genetic model plant A. thaliana. In a microevolutionary approach, we compare copper-tolerant populations of A. halleri originating from highly copper-polluted soils with sensitive populations from soils containing far lower copper concentrations. Phenotypic differences are determined and related to genome-wide profiles of polymorphism scanned for properties indicative of selection. Based on this, in combination with homology-based annotations and genome-wide gene expression data, we aim to identify regions, loci and variants that are candidates for functionally contributing to copper tolerance. We analyze in detail the signatures of selection in these genomic regions, both in isolation and in combination, as well as infer the mutational events that have been selected for, in order to derive general insights on how rapid evolutionary adaptation can arise in plants.

This project contributes towards the development of a theoretical framework for evolutionary processes that are hitherto poorly understood and unexplained. In addition, this work can serve as a basis towards the development of strategies for the sustainable management and the maintenance of biodiversity in periods of rapid environmental change.


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Associated Scientists

  • Veronica Preite
    Dr. Veronica Preite, Postdoc
    Office: 3/35 (+49 234/32-24270)
    Lab: 3/64 (+49 234/32-24296)
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  • Ute Krämer
    Prof. Dr. Ute Krämer
    Head of Department
    Office: 3/30  (+49 234/32-28004)
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