, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 503-511

Ecologically relevant stress resistance: from microarrays and quantitative trait loci to candidate genes — A research plan and preliminary results usingDrosophila as a model organism and climatic and genetic stress as model stresses

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Abstract

We aim at studying adaptation to genetic and environmental stress and its evolutionary implications at different levels of biological organization. Stress influences cellular processes, individual physiology, genetic variation at the population level, and the process of natural selection. To investigate these highly connected levels of stress effects, it is advisable - if not critical - to integrate approaches from ecology, evolution, physiology, molecular biology and genetics. To investigate the mechanisms of stress resistance, how resistance evolves, and what factors contribute to and constrain its evolution, we use the well-defined model systems ofDrosophila species, representing both cosmopolitan species such asD. melanogaster with a known genome map, and more specialized and ecologically well described species such as the cactophilicD. buzzatii. Various climate-related stresses are used as model stresses including desiccation, starvation, cold and heat. Genetic stress or genetic load is modelled by studying the consequences of inbreeding, the accumulation of (slightly) deleterious mutations, hybridization or the loss of genetic variability. We present here a research plan and preliminary results combining various approaches: molecular techniques such as microarrays, quantitative trait loci (QTL) analyses, quantitative PCR, ELISA or Western blotting are combined with population studies of resistance to climatic and genetic stress in natural populations collected across climatic gradients as well as in selection lines maintained in the laboratory.