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Open Access Research article

Aquaporins in the wild: natural genetic diversity and selective pressure in the PIP gene family in five Neotropical tree species

Delphine Audigeos1, Anna Buonamici2, Laurent Belkadi1, Paul Rymer3, David Boshier3, Caroline Scotti-Saintagne1, Giovanni G Vendramin2 and Ivan Scotti1*

Author Affiliations

1 INRA UMR 0745 EcoFoG (« Ecologie des forêts de Guyane »), Campus Agronomique, BP709 - 97387 Kourou, French Guiana, France

2 Istituto di Genetica Vegetale, Sezione di Firenze, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino (Firenze), Italy

3 Dept. of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3RB, UK

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:202  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-202

Published: 29 June 2010

Abstract

Background

Tropical trees undergo severe stress through seasonal drought and flooding, and the ability of these species to respond may be a major factor in their survival in tropical ecosystems, particularly in relation to global climate change. Aquaporins are involved in the regulation of water flow and have been shown to be involved in drought response; they may therefore play a major adaptive role in these species. We describe genetic diversity in the PIP sub-family of the widespread gene family of Aquaporins in five Neotropical tree species covering four botanical families.

Results

PIP Aquaporin subfamily genes were isolated, and their DNA sequence polymorphisms characterised in natural populations. Sequence data were analysed with statistical tests of standard neutral equilibrium and demographic scenarios simulated to compare with the observed results. Chloroplast SSRs were also used to test demographic transitions. Most gene fragments are highly polymorphic and display signatures of balancing selection or bottlenecks; chloroplast SSR markers have significant statistics that do not conform to expectations for population bottlenecks. Although not incompatible with a purely demographic scenario, the combination of all tests tends to favour a selective interpretation of extant gene diversity.

Conclusions

Tropical tree PIP genes may generally undergo balancing selection, which may maintain high levels of genetic diversity at these loci. Genetic variation at PIP genes may represent a response to variable environmental conditions.