, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 259-269

Dynamic management of genetic resources: maintenance of outcrossing in experimental metapopulations of a predominantly inbreeding species

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Abstract

Dynamic management of genetic resources inpredominantly inbreeding species requiresincreased levels of outcrossing to limit theloss of genetic variation due to smallereffective sizes and to favour the emergence ofnew genetic combinations. Here, we show thatoutcrossing rates can artificially bepermanently increased in experimental evolvingplant metapopulations, using Arabidopsisthaliana as a model. We introducedmale-sterility genes and used an adequatemanagement of the resulting female plants tomodify the outcrossing rates. As expected, theincrease in outcrossing resulted in lowerlevels of heterozygote deficiency (F is) than observed in natural populationsof A. thaliana and therefore in themaintenance of potentially higher levels ofgenetic variation. An additional selectiveadvantage for females' offspring, due to theproduction of larger seeds by females and apossible heterosis effect, furthermore led tosmaller F is than expected from therealized outcrossing rate. This selectiveadvantage also resulted in an increase infemale frequency, especially in metapopulationswith large population sizes, creating anon-causal negative correlation between femalefrequency and heterozygote deficiency.