Beyond their status as a fast-growing candidate biofuels feedstock, poplar trees are important to the forest because they can strongly influence plant and animal communities and dynamics of the forest ecosystems where they reside.
Researchers are interested in learning more about the genetic variants of poplar trees to gain insights into the impacts of climate change, as well as to help develop strains for various applications. As part of this effort, DOE Joint Genome Institute researchers collaborated with a team from the BioEnergy Science Center to combine and analyze two large libraries of poplar DNA sequence variants (SNPs) collected from poplar samples found between northern California to southern British Columbia, Canada. The result, published in the March 2013 issue of Molecular Ecology Resources, is the largest genotyping array to date, with over 34,000 SNPs representing broad genomic coverage.
Given the emphasis on bioenergy research to optimize the poplar as a feedstock and by increasing its production of sugars for conversion into fuel, many of the genes selected for the array were related to biosynthesis and regulation of plant cell walls.
“However,” the team noted in their paper, “the array is also likely to be of much broader use in association studies of other complex traits in P. trichocarpa such as … response to biotic and abiotic stress that are likely crucial for adaptation to the different environments encountered by a species with such a large latitudinal range.”