L-1: CROSS-TAXON GENOMIC BASIS OF CLIMATE-RELEVANT FITNESS TRAITS

Project group leader:
Prof. Dr. Markus Pfenninger

The survival of species under changing climatic conditions depends on both the physiological capacity to adapt by regulating the transcription of relevant genes and the evolutionary adaptability mediated by the presence of functional variants of important genes. Knowledge of the functional genetic potential and limits of climate-related expansions is of inestimable value in predicting the responses of organisms to a changing climate.

By applying techniques of genome research, we want to identify some of the important genes and pathways for climate tolerance and adaptability  in ecologically and/or economically relevant organisms (e.g., the midge Chironomus riparius, the mud snail Radix balthica, the water flea Daphnia galeata) and in health related species (e.g. tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus, malaria-transmitting Anopheles sp.) in order to reveal functional similarities and differences of climate tolerance across taxa and ecosystems.

These populations are sampled along a climate gradient and subjected to common-garden experiments in defined climatic conditions. The investigation of qualitative and quantitative differences in gene expression using expressed sequence tags, serial analysis of gene expression using pyrosequencing and DNA micorarray chips allows the identification of both phenotypically differentially expressed genes (phenotypic plasticity) and of selected genes or gene expression patterns. The knowledge of the climate-relevant genes and pathways then allows the specific examination of natural populations on existing genetic variation and thus evolutionary adaptation to their climate potential. 

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