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"Sex-linked loci, sexual specialization and local adaptation in Mercurialis annua complex" (SEX-NGS)
Start date: Jul 1, 2013, End date: Aug 31, 2014 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"The sexual and genetic systems of a plant species directly regulate how genes are transmitted across generations. Accordingly, their study is of central importance to understand plant evolution. Populations of widespread plants normally have higher fitness at their home site than in other parts of the range. However, the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying local adaptation are not well understood yet. How do plant populations adapt to a rapidly changing world? Why and how separate sexes evolve and are maintained in plants? What are the consequences of broad variation in sexual systems for plant survival at different spatial scales (local, widerange)? I will conduct innovative and multidisciplinary research, using state-of-the-art sequencing technology, to investigate how natural selection brings about local adaptation in plant populations with contrasting sexual (separate vs. combined sexes) and genetic (diploidy vs. polyploidy) systems. To address these questions, I will study the ecological genomics of local adaptation in the Mercurialis annua s.l. species complex. This species complex shows an unusually broad variation in its sexual and genetic systems, as well as large phenotypic geographical variation, thus providing an outstanding model to study, at the genomic level, the role of mating and genetic factors on local adaptation. My pursuit of these objectives will make a substantive contribution to high-level science, as this project will shed light on some fundamental questions in plant sexual evolution (e.g. the genetic control of sexual-system transitions) and, more generally, on how plants adapt to rapidly changing environments. Additionally, this project will provide a profitable training opportunity at a critical period in my career. Born in 1972, I am a junior group leader who, if properly trained to boost my capacities, will be able to develop influential cross-disciplinary research and to consolidate a European Research Area excellence group."

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