Kirsten Bomblies

ETH Zürich

Zürich, Switzerland


Session Title:

Getting organised – the (re)evolution of fertility after genome duplication



Polyploïdy, Adaptation, Meiosis, Recombination



Polyploids, which arise from whole genome duplication, have contributed to genome complexity in all eukaryotic lineages. Polyploids are also common among our most important crops, and the ability to generate new polyploids is a promising agricultural tool as it confers immediate and often lasting resistance to a range of abiotic stresses, particularly drought. But neopolyploids often have extremely low fertility, making it hard to understand how they could survive as novel lineages, and limiting their utility in agriculture. Understanding how evolved polyploids overcome the initial challenges neopolyploids face is thus of both fundamental and applied interest. A previous genome scan we did a decade ago in Arabidopsis arenosa revealed numerous genes under selection in the tetraploids that likely relate to the re-establishment of full fertility. One of the major groups of genes that came out of this encode proteins essential for meiosis, which is a well-known challenge facing polyploids. We use Arabidopsis arenosa, which occurs naturally as an autotetraploid and a diploid, and from which we can make neopolyploids by doubling the diploids. This three-way comparison gives powerful insights into what the initial problems are that polyploidy causes, and how selection can generate solutions to these issues. I will discuss what we have learned about the problems polyploids initially face, how the established polyploids evolved solutions to those problems, and the genes that we found are important. I will also discuss an additional fertility challenge we have identified, as well as two genes that solve that issue. These studies give insights into polyploid evolution, as well as information that can be used to improve the fertility of neopolyploids for breeding novel agriculturally useful plants.


Room: Auditorium 900