Epigenetic variability in the genetically uniform forest tree species Pinus pinea L.
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There is an increasing interest in understanding the role of epigenetic variability in forest species and how it may contribute to their rapid adaptation to changing environments. In this study we have conducted a genome-wide analysis of cytosine methylation pattern in Pinus pinea, a species characterized by very low levels of genetic variation and a remarkable degree of phenotypic plasticity. DNA methylation profiles of different vegetatively propagated trees from representative natural Spanish populations of P. pinea were analyzed with the Methylation Sensitive Amplified Polymorphism (MSAP) technique. A high degree of cytosine methylation was detected (64.36% of all scored DNA fragments). Furthermore, high levels of epigenetic variation were observed among the studied individuals. This high epigenetic variation found in P. pinea contrasted with the lack of genetic variation based on Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism (AFLP) data. In this manner, variable epigenetic markers clearly discriminate individuals and differentiates two well represented populations while the lack of genetic variation revealed with the AFLP markers fail to differentiate at both, individual or population levels. In addition, the use of different replicated trees allowed identifying common polymorphic methylation sensitive MSAP markers among replicates of a given propagated tree. This set of MSAPs allowed discrimination of the 70% of the analyzed trees.
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