Genetic Variation Related to High Elevation Adaptation Revealed by Common Garden Experiments in Pinus yunnanensis

Yan Qiang Sun, Wei Zhao, Chao Qun Xu, Yulan Xu, Yousry A. El-Kassaby, Amanda R. De La Torre, Jian Feng Mao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Local adaptation, adaptation to specialized niches and environmental clines have been extensively reported for forest trees. Investigation of the adaptive genetic variation is crucial for forest resource management and breeding, especially in the context of global climate change. Here, we utilized a Pinus yunnanensis common garden experiments established at high and low elevation sites to assess the differences in growth and survival among populations and between the two common garden sites. The studied traits showed significant variation between the two test sites and among populations, suggesting adaptive divergence. To detect genetic variation related to environment, we captured 103,608 high quality SNPs based on RNA sequencing, and used them to assess the genetic diversity and population structure. We identified 321 outlier SNPs from 131 genes showing significant divergence in allelic frequency between survival populations of two sites. Functional categories associated with adaptation to high elevation were found to be related to flavonoid biosynthesis, response to UV, DNA repair, response to reactive oxygen species, and membrane lipid metabolic process. Further investigation of the outlier genes showed overrepresentation of the flavonoid biosynthesis pathway, suggesting that this pathway may play a key role in P. yunnanensis adaptation to high elevation environments. The outlier genes identified, and their variants, provide a basic reference for advanced investigations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1405
JournalFrontiers in Genetics
StatePublished - Feb 11 2020


  • F outlier
  • RNA-seq
  • elevation adaptation
  • flavonoid biosynthesis
  • nucleotide diversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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