Plant Cell Reports

, Volume 34, Issue 12, pp 2111–2125 | Cite as

From genotypes to phenotypes: expression levels of genes encompassing adaptive SNPs in black spruce

  • Julien Prunier
  • Guillaume Tessier
  • Jean Bousquet
  • John MacKay
Original Article


Key message

Measuring transcript levels for adaptive genes revealed polymorphisms having cis -effect upon gene expression levels related to phenotype variation in a black spruce natural population.


Trees growing in temperate and boreal regions must acclimate to changes in climatic factors such as low winter temperatures to survive to seasonal variations. Common garden studies have shown that genetic variation in quantitative traits helps species to survive and adapt to environmental changes and local conditions. Twenty-four genes carrying SNPs were previously associated with genetic adaptation in black spruce (Picea mariana [Mill.] BSP). The objectives of this study were to investigate the potential role of these genes in regulation of winter acclimation and adaptation by studying their patterns of expression as a function of the physiological stage during the annual growth cycle, tissue type, and their SNP genotypic class. Considerable variability in gene expression was observed between different vegetative tissues or organs, and between physiological stages. The genes were expressed predominantly in tissues that could be linked more directly to winter acclimation and adaptation. The expression levels of several of the genes were significantly related to variation in tree height growth or budset timing and expression level variation related to SNP genotypic classes was observed in four of the genes. An interaction between genotypic classes and physiological stages was also observed for some genes, indicating genotypes with different reaction norms in terms of gene expression.


Adaptive genes expression qPCR Black spruce Budset timing Tree height growth 



We thank Brian Boyle, Isabelle Giguère, and Sébastien Caron for assistance with lab work, as well as Claude Bomal for fruitful discussion during the study design. We also thank Martin Perron and Armand Seguin for comments on the first manuscript. This work was supported by a Grant from the Fonds de Recherche du Québec—Nature et Technologies (FRQNT) attributed to Jean Bousquet and John MacKay. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments upon the first version of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

299_2015_1855_MOESM1_ESM.docx (624 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 623 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julien Prunier
    • 1
  • Guillaume Tessier
    • 1
  • Jean Bousquet
    • 1
  • John MacKay
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Canada Research Chair in Forest and Environmental Genomics, Centre for Forest Research and Institute for System and Integrative BiologyUniversité LavalQuébecCanada
  2. 2.Department of Plant SciencesUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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