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Investigating adaptation of autotetraploid Erythranthe guttata to internal and external environmental challenges

Project Description

The monkey flower plant (Erythranthe guttata, formerly Mimulus guttatus) is an out-crossing, water-loving species that is largely distributed throughout North America in both diploid and autotetraploid populations. E. guttata has adapted to the internal stress of whole genome duplication that may have conferred an advantage for external success as these plants thrive on toxic serpentine soils as well as soils with high salt conditions. In addition, E. guttata is used as an ornamental species grown in gardens due to the abundance of bright yellow flowers (see Fig. 1), such that in Victorian times plants were brought back to the UK and have now widely established themselves. In particular, we have recently discovered a new species of tetraploid E. guttata in the Shetland Islands that appears to have arisen through whole genome duplication of the invasive diploid species (Simon-Porcar et al. 2017). This NERC CENTA proposal is curiousity driven but aims to elucidate the adaptability of polyploid plants to challenging environmental stressors.

We are currently using next generation sequencing to determine if the diploids and autotetraploids are genetically similar and whether standing variation in the diploids provided pre-adaptation material for meiotic success in whole genome duplication. In this CENTA PhD project we will assess the performance of diploids and autotetraploids (collected from UK and Western USA populations) to environmental stresses such as high salt and toxic metals as well as meiotic adaptation to polyploidy. We will incorporate genomic data obtained in collaboration with Dr Levi Yant (University of Nottingham) to identify causal genes for adaptation, similar to the approach that we have previously employed in Arabidopsis arenosa (Yant et al. 2013).

The project will include subjecting plants from five E. guttuta diploid and five autotetraploid populations to various levels of salt conditions and measuring performance such as growth, weight, number of flowers etc. We will test for segregation of adaptive alleles within the population, first by phenotyping and then second using next generation sequencing to determine which alleles associate with salt tolerance. We wil also phenotypically screen these plants for meiotic stability using chromosome spreads at meiotic metaphase I (see figure 1). We have already identified a candidate gene (ASY1) to test for allelic variability and segregation within these populations.

We will collaborate with Dr Levi Yant and Professor David Salt (University of Nottingham) as well as Dr Mario Vallejo-Marin (University of Stirling).

Entry requirements

Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 or better in a relevant subject. The University of Leicester English language requirements apply where applicable.

How to apply

Please refer to the CENTA Studentship application information on our website for details of how to apply.

As part of the application process you will need to:
• Complete a CENTA Funding form – to be uploaded to your PhD application
• Complete and submit your PhD application online. Indicate project CENTA2-GENE2-HIGG in the funding section.
• Complete an online project selection form Apply for CENTA2-GENE2-HIGG

Funding Notes

This studentship is one of a number of fully funded studentships available to the best UK and EU candidates available as part of the NERC DTP CENTA consortium. The award will provide tuition fees as the UK/EU rate and a stipend at the RCUK rates for a period of 3.5 years.

For more details of the CENTA consortium please see the CENTA website: View Website.

Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility: View Website

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