Ecological and evolutionary genomics of Scabiosa columbaria
In this project, we focus on the interaction between environmental stress and ´genetic stress´, by studying phenotypic adaptive responses to environmental stress and inbreeding depression. Gene expression technologies and physiological experiments are used to unravel the complex interplay of environmental and genetic factors on plant responses to changes in their environment. In most cases, plants respond to stress by mechanisms of tolerance, resistance and avoidance, which can be clearly defined by metabolic pathways. However, some responses to environmental changes cannot be explained by Mendelian genetics. Latest findings in the field of epigenetics, such as epigenetic inheritance, lead to believe that plants may have a flexible short-term strategy of the response to stress. To explore possible epigenetic mechanisms in plant responses to stress in combination with inbreeding, we exposed inbred and outbred plants to low and high levels of stress and screened for variation in methylation. In addition, we performed methylation manipulation experiments in the greenhouse. This research showed that epigenetic processes can be affected by inbreeding and suggests that inbreeding depression has an epigenetic component.