Local-Scale Patterns of Genetic Variability, Outcrossing, and Spatial Structure in Natural Stands of Arabidopsis thaliana
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As Arabidopsis thaliana is increasingly employed in evolutionary and ecological studies, it is essential to understand patterns of natural genetic variation and the forces that shape them. Previous work focusing mostly on global and regional scales has demonstrated the importance of historical events such as long-distance migration and colonization. Far less is known about the role of contemporary factors or environmental heterogeneity in generating diversity patterns at local scales. We sampled 1,005 individuals from 77 closely spaced stands in diverse settings around Tübingen, Germany. A set of 436 SNP markers was used to characterize genome-wide patterns of relatedness and recombination. Neighboring genotypes often shared mosaic blocks of alternating marker identity and divergence. We detected recent outcrossing as well as stretches of residual heterozygosity in largely homozygous recombinants. As has been observed for several other selfing species, there was considerable heterogeneity among sites in diversity and outcrossing, with rural stands exhibiting greater diversity and heterozygosity than urban stands. Fine-scale spatial structure was evident as well. Within stands, spatial structure correlated negatively with observed heterozygosity, suggesting that the high homozygosity of natural A. thaliana may be partially attributable to nearest-neighbor mating of related individuals. The large number of markers and extensive local sampling employed here afforded unusual power to characterize local genetic patterns. Contemporary processes such as ongoing outcrossing play an important role in determining distribution of genetic diversity at this scale. Local "outcrossing hotspots" appear to reshuffle genetic information at surprising rates, while other stands contribute comparatively little. Our findings have important implications for sampling and interpreting diversity among A. thaliana accessions.
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