Carsten Külheim

  • Nov 26, 2018

Date & Location: November 26, 2018, at 4p; Room 1200 Molecular Plant Sciences Building

Talk focus: Genes to ecosystems: the problem of complex traits

About the Speaker

University: Michigan Technological University

Abstract: Ecologists often talk about “genes to ecosystems” to describe how genetic variation influences ecological interactions. Many of the traits of interest are “complex” and controlled by many genes. Understanding the architecture of these complex traits is a major roadblock in integrating molecular approaches in ecology. In this talk I will describe the molecular basis of variation in an important group of plant secondary metabolites, the terpenes, in Australian Myrtaceae.

Using a candidate gene approach, I was able to discover genetic variants that explained some, but not all of the genetic component of trait variation, showing that much of the trait heritability remains unaccounted for. To test whether the “missing heritability” was caused by variants outside known candidate genes I changed to a whole genome sequencing approach, which discovered both novel genes involved in secondary metabolite variation and increased the amount of variation that could be accounted for.

I will further introduce the terpene synthase gene family in Myrtaceae and how plant chemical polymorphisms or chemotypes arise and explore some of the ecological consequences of chemotypic variation.