Harnessing tree-ring phenotypes to disentangle gene by environment interactions and their climate dependencies in a circum-Mediterranean pine
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Background and Aims Understanding the genetic basis of adaptation and plasticity in trees constitutes a knowledge gap. We linked dendrochronology and genomics [single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)] for a widespread conifer (Pinus halepensis Mill.) to characterize intraspecific growth differences elicited by climate. Methods The analysis comprised 20-year tree-ring series of 130 trees structured in 23 populations evaluated in a common garden. We tested for genotype by environment interactions (G × E) of indexed ring width (RWI) and early- to latewood ratios (ELI) using factorial regression, which describes G × E as differential gene sensitivity to climate. Key Results The species' annual growth was positively influenced by winter temperature and spring moisture and negatively influenced by previous autumn precipitation and warm springs. Four and five climate factors explained 10 % (RWI) and 16 % (ELI) of population-specific interannual variability, respectively, with populations from drought-prone areas and with uneven precipitation experiencing larger growth reductions during dry vegetative periods. Furthermore, four and two SNPs explained 14 % (RWI) and 10 % (ELI) of interannual variability among trees, respectively. Two SNPs played a putative role in adaptation to climate: one identified from transcriptome sequencing of P. halepensis and another involved in response regulation to environmental stressors. Conclusions We highlight how tree-ring phenotypes, obtained from a common garden experiment, combined with a candidate-gene approach allow the quantification of genetic and environmental effects determining adaptation for a conifer with a large and complex genome.