Étudiant-chercheur étoile December 2013

Jukka-Pekka Verta

PhD Student in Wood and Forest Sciences
Université Laval

Award-winning publication: Are long-lived trees poised for evolutionary change? Single locus effects in the evolution of gene expression networks in spruce

Published in: Molecular Ecology, 22, 2369-2379, 2013


"Evolution depends on variation in phenotypes, the composite of an organism's observable characteristics or traits, yet the genetic basis of phenotypic variation in wild species has remained largely uncharacterized. In my study, a novel approach is proposed to characterize genetic variation with phenotypic effects in a gymnosperm plant, the white spruce (Picea glauca). An unexpectedly high frequency of gene expression traits were discovered, and were found to possibly evolve independently from one another. This study is the first large-scale analysis of heritable expression variation in a gymnosperm plant, and the results point towards a significant genetic contribution to this type of variation in white spruce that may facilitate its adaptation to environmental changes."

White spruce grows across Canada and it is the most widely used tree species for forest planting in Québec. It is increasingly evident that the white spruce forest suffers from environmental changes such as extreme drought, linked to anthropological and natural causes. Jukka-Pekka Verta's work can be readily used to characterize and study genetic variation within and between populations, and eventually lead to more intelligent forest management practices.