One of the challenges of 21st-century biology is to determine, at the DNA sequence level, the basis of adaptive evolution in nature. The flowering plant genus Mimulus (monkey flowers) has become a leading model system for studying ecological and evolutionary genetics in nature. JGI will sequence the species Mimulus guttatus.
Since Darwin, Mimulus species have been used to investigate a wide range of topics of interest to ecologists and evolutionarybiologists, including plant adaptation to soils contaminated with heavy metals, mating system evolution, the genetic basis of inbreeding depression, plant/herbivore interactions, adaptive radiation of floral form, life history evolution, and the origin of new species. Compared to other plants whose genomes have been sequenced, Mimulus is uniquely suited for ecological and evolutionary studies because of its tremendous range of floral morphology (and associated pollinators), mating systems (selfing to outcrossing), growth forms (annual herbs to perennial woody shrubs), and habitat preference (desert to riparian to aquatic). A well-resolved phylogeny of the roughly 160 Mimulus species reveals that the genus has undergone two large adaptive radiations, one in western North America and an independent radiation in Australia.
Like all plant genetic model systems, Mimulus species have a small genome (about 430 Mb), a short generation time (6 to 12 weeks), high fecundity (100 to 2000 seeds per pollination), self-compatibility, and ease of greenhouse propagation. Unlike most plant genetic model systems, the ecology of Mimulus is known in great detail, and nearly all studies of Mimulus have a prominent field-based component. Recognizing the need to develop a basic set of genomics tools for an ecologically important model system, the National Science Foundation Frontiers in Intergrative Biological Research program has funded a $5 million, 5-year integrated ecological and genomic analysis of the genomes of M. guttatus, M. nasutus, M. lewisii, and M. cardinalis. The Mimulus genome sequence will complete the genomics toolkit.
CSP project participants: John H. Willis (proposer) and Fred Dietrich (Duke Univ.), Toby Bradshaw (Univ. of Washington), Lila Fishman (Univ. of Montana), Douglas W. Schemske (Michigan State Univ.), Jeffery P. Tomkins (Clemson Univ.), Todd Vision (Univ. of North Carolina), and Paul Beardsley (Idaho State Univ.).