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G3 (Bethesda). 2011 Jul;1(2):151-9. doi: 10.1534/g3.111.000372. Epub 2011 Jul 1.

Genetic Variation in the Chemical Components of Eucalyptus globulus Wood.

Abstract

Despite the ecological and economic importance of lignin and other wood chemical components, there are few studies of the natural genetic variation that exists within plant species and its adaptive significance. We used models developed from near infra-red spectroscopy to study natural genetic variation in lignin content and monomer composition (syringyl-to-guaiacyl ratio [S/G]) as well as cellulose and extractives content, using a 16-year-old field trial of an Australian tree species, Eucalyptus globulus. We sampled 2163 progenies of 467 native trees from throughout the native geographic range of the species. The narrow-sense heritability of wood chemical traits (0.25-0.44) was higher than that of growth (0.15), but less than wood density (0.51). All wood chemical traits exhibited significant broad-scale genetic differentiation (Q(ST) = 0.34-0.43) across the species range. This differentiation exceeded that detected with putatively neutral microsatellite markers (F(ST) = 0.09), arguing that diversifying selection has shaped population differentiation in wood chemistry. There were significant genetic correlations among these wood chemical traits at the population and additive genetic levels. However, population differentiation in the S/G ratio of lignin in particular was positively correlated with latitude (R(2) = 76%), which may be driven by either adaptation to climate or associated biotic factors.

KEYWORDS:

adaptation; cellulose; extractives; guaiacyl; lignin; syringyl; tree improvement; wood chemicals

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