Molecular ecology is poised to tackle a host of interesting questions in the coming years. The Arctic provides a unique and rapidly changing environment with a suite of emerging research needs that can be addressed through genetics and genomics. Here we highlight recent research on boreal and tundra ecosystems, and put forth a series of questions related to plant and microbial responses to climate change that can benefit from technologies and analytical approaches contained within the molecular ecologist's toolbox. These questions include understanding (1) the mechanisms of plant acquisition and uptake of N in cold soils, (2) how these processes are mediated by root traits, (3) the role played by the plant-microbiome in cycling C and nutrients within high-latitude ecosystems, and (4) plant adaptation to extreme Arctic climates. We highlight how contributions can be made in these areas through studies that target model and non-model organisms, and emphasize that the sequencing of the Populus and Salix genomes provides a valuable resource for scientific discoveries related to the plant microbiome and plant adaptation in the Arctic. Moreover, there exists an exciting role to play in model development, including incorporating genetic and evolutionary knowledge into ecosystem and Earth System Models. In this regard, the molecular ecologist provides a valuable perspective on plant genetics as a driver for community biodiversity, and how ecological and evolutionary forces govern community dynamics in a rapidly changing climate. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Protection against freeze damage during the growing season influences the northern range limits of plants. Freeze tolerance and freeze avoidance are the two major freeze resistance strategies. Winter survival strategies have been extensively studied in perennials, but few have addressed them and their genetic basis during the growing season. We examined intraspecific phenotypic variation in freeze resistance of Populus balsamifera across latitude and the growing season. To investigate the molecular basis of this variation, we surveyed nucleotide diversity and examined patterns of gene expression in the poplar C-repeat binding factor (CBF) gene family. Foliar freeze tolerance exhibited latitudinal and seasonal variation indicative of natural genotypic variation. CBF6 showed signatures of recent selective sweep. Of the 46 SNPs surveyed across the six CBF homologs, only CBF2_619 exhibited latitudinal differences consistent with increased freeze tolerance in the north. All six CBF genes were cold inducible, but showed varying patterns of expression across the growing season. Some Poplar CBF homologs exhibited patterns consistent with historical selection and clinal variation in freeze tolerance documented here. However, the CBF genes accounted for only a small amount of the variation, indicating that other genes in this and other molecular pathways likely play significant roles in nature.
In Canada, tuberculosis (TB) is increasingly an urban health problem. Montreal is Canada's second-largest city and the second most frequent destination for new immigrants and refugees.
To detect spatial aggregation of cases, areas of excess incidence and local 'hot spots' of transmission in Montreal.
We used residential addresses to geocode active TB cases reported on the Island of Montreal in 1996-2000. After a hot spot analysis suggested two areas of overconcentration, we conducted a spatial scan, with census tracts (population 2500-8000) as the primary unit of analysis and stratification by birthplace. We linked these analyses with genotyping of all available Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolates, using IS6110-RFLP and spoligotyping.
We identified four areas of excess incidence among the foreign-born (incidence rate ratios 1.3-4.1, relative to the entire Island) and one such area among the Canadian-born (incidence rate ratio 2.3). There was partial overlap with the two hot spots. Genotyping indicated ongoing transmission among the foreign-born within the largest high-incidence zone. While this zone overlapped the area of high incidence among Canadian-born, genotyping largely excluded transmission between the two groups.
In a city with low overall incidence, spatial and molecular analyses highlighted ongoing local transmission.